Reading and writing in the third age

A hundred and sixty pages in eight weeks. Twenty pages per week. Four pages per day. This constitutes the challenge I have set for myself, to report my work activities of the past three years. The global view must be collected entirely in writing before October, because past that time frame I will start to forget my past accomplishments through new beginnings.

Reading and writing have been my main activities for the past few months, as I realized recently – and in retrospect, they were so the past few years too. I find it selfishly interesting to notice how I slowly shifted my thought focus in the last two years from considerations about myself and my own existence to considerations about my developments at work and my social interactions. This blog is a victim of that change: the frequency of my posts decreases not because I write less; actually it decreases because I write more, elsewhere. Because of this, I will probably not write for myself too much until the end of this year. 2011 will thus be a period of hibernation over here.

Back to reading and writing. Writing, lately, is nearly always about work, in many forms. Helping others to work; helping myself to think; helping my peers to understand what my colleagues and I do for a living. In the coming two months, it will also be about dumping accumulated knowledge and understandings so that my memory becomes free again for fresh stuff. Reading, on the other hand, is more diverse. Next to the mandatory work-related reading I have built a healthy mix of responsible reading (news reports, facts of the world, and comments about them) and entertainment reading. Entertainment is further split between random factoids about stuff and people (mostly from Wikipedia and MeFi), erotica and amateur novels in digital form.

There is something to be said about the two latter forms, which I source mostly from (I should probably tell those things to a therapist, but I decided therapy would wait until I am done with my summer writing.) The main issue that I try to solve through reading is isolation. Not the social isolation that comes as a side-effect of the kind of work I have currently, which I mostly solved by ensuring regular meet-ups with friends. The isolation is one of culture, the lack of regular instances of that “yeah, me too” feeling in interactions that enables the human individual to feel part of a group. My favorite texts are lengthy, multi-episode running novels about young adults going through college life, mostly American. While I find the peculiarities of American culture thoroughly uninteresting (especially the fascination for sports, the superficiality of relationships, the focus on cars and financial independence at all costs), college life rings close to my own: students everywhere, a university setting, daily study, all mixed with a sense of unrooting from one’s origins – most college students in those stories move far away from home, as a plot device that prevents parents from interfering with story lines. The stuff that makes my day is the turmoil of these fictional youngsters, of course - who they meet, how they meet, what they do, what they say, what they think and what they understand from what they do together. Beyond allowing me to live vicariously my emotional development through the life of these characters, reading of this sort is also a source of examples, models to follow and not follow, inspiration as to what to say and do in potential social circumstances.

A thought on the aside. As my reading experience grows, so does my ability to recognize what constitutes good and bad writing, especially with regards to the realism of the depicted personalities. Lately, I have become especially sensitive to the various ways this depicted American youth culture, one of exuberance and shortsightedness, fundamentally mismatches the one I observe at home, which is one of measuredness and care for consequences. This proves problematic to apply everyday what is described in those stories as a “winning recipe”: daring, trying, and accept undesired outcomes as innocuous inputs for character building. Over here, actions have consequences and require more forward thinking, since any experience gained via unsuccessful approaches may become intertwined with complex social consequences. I would give much for reading stuff that targets more my geographical and cultural surroundings.

Any how, this reading proves a pleasant complement to my everyday life experiences. What I do not get from reading though, is the ability to share my own experiences with others. Not the experience about “stuff”, that is objective knowledge and reason about reality – those things I do share already. What I miss is the sharing about the other “stuff”, the one from the heart and blood; every interaction I have with my current social surroundings is a repeated confirmation of their ignorance and foreignness to the side of the emotional world where I happen to stand. I can’t blame them, after all the luxury of living the life of a social minority has its own advantages regarding experience and strength of character so I can’t feel sorry to be there. However the isolation still seriously sucks big time.