Why You Should Read In The Morning

It is good to begin your day with some reading, fifteen or twenty minutes, maybe even thirty, with which you can cleanse your mind of whatever filth you have spent your slumber dreaming up, and rid yourself still of the lingering thoughts, emotions and worries of the previous day.

I would say that it doesn’t matter what you read, but it does; something complicated and heavy, too complex, this can set the mind in motion too early. In turn, you burn out your mental faculties hours before they’re actually firing. But something light, perhaps motivational, whether the Bible or a text akin to that — say, a self help book — can deliver a mixed cocktail of motivation and thought-provocation to remain intoxicated with before you go on your merry way.

Modern life is an anathema to this, however. From the minute we wake now, we are inundated with tasks. If it isn’t our family that needs tending to, then it is work, which doesn’t start at the beginning of the day, no sir; work begins before it ends, overnight, as the emails pile up, and whatever was not done yesterday persists long into today, then follows us around like a stalker, an anxiety that does not relinquish its grip on us until the task is complete or, better yet, we have left the job in which we are at present moment employed.

Aside from this, there are buses to catch, ferries to take, subways to ride. There are traffic lights to sit in front of, bumpers to look at, podcasts and news programs to numb ourselves with. We look out at a world that it in a rush to get going, never pausing to ask who or what it is all for.

In this, you ask, does reading matter. Does it matter at all whether we spend fifteen minutes in the morning absorbing some written text — why, a podcast is just as good, you think. But is not, for the work required to read, the mental acuity which it commands from the person doing the reading, is significantly greater than that which is used — passively — as something is read aloud. In both there is concentration required, you must adjust the senses to hear just as you would with something you’d watch; but with reading, the mind must process each word individually, place it within the sentence in which it is written, zoom out to see the sentence as part of a whole paragraph, and place the paragraph within the context of the larger story or idea being expressed.

Reading, you see, is actual work.

And just as you might hit the treadmill for fifteen minutes before building to a half hour, and just as the half hour before long becomes an hour, so too does reading; the more you do it, the more you can do it. The brain, in the end, is little more than a muscle, and if you are to work it out, then the more intelligent, in the end, you will be. Why else do children, when they are of the age when they can choose to do something else, make such a sustained effort to avoid reading, to indulge in reading’s pleasures only when necessary, either for school or some preparatory exam. They do this because to read takes actual effort — and that is an effort that they would rather apply elsewhere. A child can spend four hours watching television or looking at a phone; but reading, chances are they can only do that for fifteen minutes.

In the end, we must choose to read because of how difficult it is, in spite of the work we must put in to do it, because reading provides us with critical thinking skills, improve cognition. Reading teaches our minds how to dart, from one idea to the next, one image to the next, as a ninja does over a brick wall. And when we see the state of the world today, how impossibly simple all popular thought has become — binary thinking in which one side is good, the other bad, and never the twain shall meet — we can only assume one thing. That this reality exists due to a decline in literaracy, and in turn an inability for the mind to hold two opposing thoughts within it at the same time, and consider that the space in between — in the grey — is where the truth really is.

Wrote for the New York Times, New York Magazine, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Vice, Fader, Vibe, XXL, MTV News, many other places.

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