And How to Find True Peace through Reading
Our Modern Lifestyle Does Not Provide True Fulfillment
We are creatures of habit, used to the things we experience every day, and disinclined to take up those things that would break up our natural routines. We roll out of bed, down coffee, commute to the office, work, drive home, and eat dinner in front of Netflix.
It is a familiar pattern, a pattern most of us revert to when we neglect to question our activities, and a pattern that deceives us with its comfortable familiarity into thinking we have had a fulfilling experience. But in truth, we have had no true pleasure in our day.
After all, is not true pleasure found in the quiet moments of life? The open embrace of a loved one, the cooing of a baby, the twinkling of the stars, and even the simple joy of the setting sun while Mumford and Sons ebbs and flows over the stereo – these are the moments we most cherish! And the moments we most often neglect.
These experiences involve an aspect that we often forget to add into our mechanical actions: that of resting in an experience. Pausing in the daily grind to smile at a beautiful cloud, listen to a toddler’s prattle, write a loving note to a friend – or read a beloved book.
Reading Without Peace
Sadly, I find that most people who want to read more try to cram it into a corner of their lives – to listen to an audio book on the way to work, to listen while going for a run, or keep their red eyes open past midnight to force themselves to finish a book. Honestly, I think this brings about as much enjoyment as passively sitting in front of Netflix at the end of a long day – it is a burned out experience or a desperate attempt to add one more thing to an already hectic life.
We are not on earth to live on pre-programmed movements like robots: rather, “we work in order to have leisure.” If we do not believe this, then we will not find true pleasure in life, for leisure is the state of being that brings the peace we work so hard to gain.
How to Participate in Leisure
What is leisure, you ask. It is the act of resting in a moment; the stillness that comes with allowing our hearts to speak, our minds to calm, and our bodies to experience. It is the openness to something different from our everyday routines, the susceptibility of the heart to being affected by beauty and goodness, and the embracing of all things as they are. I’m trying not to get too philosophical, but ultimately, it is the resting in the unity of body and spirit, which is the connection to ‘everything that is’.
When we take a moment to rest in a story for the sake of a true, full enjoyment of beauty and truth, then we have participated in leisure. When we kiss a baby, smell his head, and smile into his sleeping face, we have participated in leisure. When we gaze into the eyes of our beloved other, invite him/her into the inner recesses of our heart, and close the door into our inner sanctuary together, we have participated in leisure.
Have you had these experiences? If not, I encourage you to find a quiet place in your life, close your eyes, and try to rest in the moment. It will take practice, but you will get there. And to help ease you into leisure, find something to do in your quiet time alone. Read a book, paint a picture, or do some nature photography, but don’t have any music, tv, or podcasts playing in the background. It is vital to have silence, for it is in silence that we learn leisure.
The Relationship between Reading and Leisure
Reading fiction is one of the best ways to experience leisure, for story gently opens a chasm in our hearts and offers us a mirror into our lives, our selves, and the world. It invites reflection without demanding deep thought, and forgives the errors of the individual while rejoicing in the goodness of each heart. And when reading becomes a habit in our lives, it will not be so difficult to pick up a book each day, for we will remember the pleasure we received from it, and will desire to return to it. Even more than that, the joy gained from doing something we love will spread to our friends and family, and they will begin to yearn to do the things they love. Don’t apologize for cutting into their routines or shaking up their lives by removing yourself into a quiet sphere; don’t hide your new habits; instead, help the ones you love to also find the things that bring them pleasure. We all need to set examples through our choices – it’s our way of helping others, and we can do that by first changing our own life.
Is reading one of the activities that bring you true pleasure in life? Does it calm, excite, invigorate, or challenge you? Then embrace it! I challenge you now to break into your normal routine and make reading a part of your everyday life. Read before you climb out of bed, read a book on your patio in the morning, read when you get home, or as you’re going to sleep – there are so many moments in your day for you to find pleasure – you just need to break out of the normal routine in order to notice them. You will find that this introduction to the peace of leisure will have an immense and positive impact on your life, and you will experience joy, fun, and peace that stretch beyond your mundane, habitual activities.
Read, rest, and find peace.
- A Hectic Life Brings no Peace
- Leisure is the Act of Resting in a Moment
- We Need Rest and Leisure in Order to Find Peace
- Reading Is an Excellent Way to Participate in Leisure
 Pieper, Joseph; Leisure, the Basis of Culture, chapter 1
 Aristotle; De Anima, 3, 8, (431b)
Artwork by Arthur Rackham, Kay Nielson, and Anne Anderson