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Seven Parallel Minds


The ability to read awoke inside me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive. ~ Malcolm X, 1964

No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance. ~Confucius

At any given time, I have multiple books actively being read. Some people prefer to read serially, focus on one book, immerse themselves in the story or text, masticate on it, digest it thoroughly before moving on to another. That’s not me. I enjoy having many storylines vying for my attention, information sources competing for the free moments I have available to devote to ingesting thoughts made tangible.

It’s amazing how often I find while reading multiple disparate works that the books complement each other, that the ideas being shared in two polar opposite genres have information that dovetails to create brilliance, that allows me obtain a more solid understanding of each and giving me a depth of knowledge that I simply would miss if I had read them in sequential fashion.

Currently, I have seven active books. One is an audio book, After the Earthquake by Haruki Murakami – a collection of short stories originally penned in Japanese, that accompanies me on my car rides and is my entertainment while working out at the gym. Two are paperbacks, The Captain’s Verses by Pablo Neruda – Love Poems originally written in Spanish, Through The Language Glass by Guy Deutscher – nonfiction about the way the world sees and interprets color, purchased before I received my iPad and added a Kindle application. The remaining four are Kindle books, Men of the Bible by DW Moody – Nonfiction about how Biblical men answered God’s call for their lives, The Sayings of Confucius – Ancient Chinese wisdom, Taking People With You by David Novak – leadership by the CEO of YUM! brands, and Shakespeare’s Sonnets by William Shakespeare – poetry, of those four, three were free offerings. The Sonnets is the only book that doesn’t fit well with the others. Actually, it may fit well if only I could understand what Shakespeare is saying.

The thought of reading from an eBook reader did not sit well with me. I like the feel of holding a book, the sensory stimulation of turning pages, the smell of the paper, the heft of the book in my hands, the underlining and dog earring and broken bindings, seeing a well worn friend sitting on my bookshelf with pages yellowed by time. But now, in my iPad, I have an eBook reader. At any given time, I have a library of books at my fingertips, a host of sources accessible by a few clicks, passages searchable more quickly than I could ever have imagined. What was the poem by Robinson Jeffers that talked of the rock and hawk? Click, click, type, search. Bingo. It’s before my eyes for rereading, for enjoying all over again.

Two of the books I already finished this year, 5 Levels of Leadership by John Maxwell and The Ambition by Lee Strobel, were Kindle books. The other three I have completed were audio books; As A Man Thinketh by James Allen, Candide by Voltaire, and The Practice of the Presence of God by by Brother Lawrence.

For many years, I prided myself on only reading nonfiction reasoning it was food for the brain whereas fiction was cotton candy, unnecessary fluff with no intellectual value and, I am embarrassed to say, I did not think too highly of people who succumbed to fiction on a regular basis (Yes, I do battle arrogance at times). At times I would go off my diet and indulge in fiction but generally felt guilty, felt I had wasted valuable time that would have been put too much better use if I had spent the time more wisely and read a book of substance. Recently, read a blog entry that resolved my guilt. The revelationary paragraph is:

“Over the past decade, academic researchers such as Oatley and Raymond Mar from York University have gathered data indicating that fiction-reading activates neuronal pathways in the brain that measurably help the reader better understand real human emotion — improving his or her overall social skillfulness. For instance, in fMRI studies of people reading fiction, neuroscientists detect activity in the pre-frontal cortex — a part of the brain involved with setting goals — when the participants read about characters setting a new goal. It turns out that when Henry James, more than a century ago, defended the value of fiction by saying that “a novel is a direct impression of life,” he was more right than he knew.”

Now, I read fiction with abandon. Truthfully, good fiction it is the only genre I read that completely absorbs my attention for hours on end. I recall times when I laid on a couch for hours reading a story moving only to refresh my drink or empty the contents of my last drink after if filtered through my bladder. Time to finish this blog. The books are calling me and I need to see which of the seven parallel minds draws me in first.

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