Reasons Not To Read: Learning to Put Down the Book and Read the Story of Life

One of my favorite movies is Good Will Hunting with Robin Williams and Matt Damon. Most of you have probably seen it, and probably know what scene I’m about to reference, but it’s one of those cinematic moments that speaks true to life on an incredible level. It reminds me of the importance to put down my books and pay attention to the world around me.

The movie itself revolves around a young man named Will Hunting (Matt Damon) with an eidetic memory (or at least a really good memory) who gets into trouble with the law and goes to see a counselor, Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) in order to avoid jail time.  In their first meeting, Will  basically snubs Sean with a superior attitude.  When they meet for a second time, Sean and Will go to a park for their session.  Acknowledging Will’s high IQ and brilliant memory, Sean has this to say:

So if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that. If I ask you about women, you’d probably give me a syllabus about your personal favorites. You may have even been laid a few times. But you can’t tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy. You’re a tough kid. And I’d ask you about war, you’d probably throw Shakespeare at me, right, “once more unto the breach dear friends.” But you’ve never been near one. You’ve never held your best friend’s head in your lap, watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help. I’d ask you about love, you’d probably quote me a sonnet. But you’ve never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone that could level you with her eyes, feeling like God put an angel on earth just for you. Who could rescue you from the depths of hell.

Sean’s right.  You don’t live life in books or in your head.  You live life outside them.  I will never, EVER tell someone reading isn’t worth it, that you should just go and live your life and forget about books or an education.  What I will say is that the things you learn about in books become so much more when you’ve experienced them.  From age two to twenty, I had seen hundreds of pictures of the Taj Mahal in India, but nothing compared to standing right in front of it and taking in all of its splendor.  It was phenomenal.

My blog is called “reading to live.”  I still stand by that; reading is critical to truly living life.  If you don’t go and live life, however, any reading you might do is for naught.


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