This clip from an NPR article, The Sad Beautiful Fact That We’re Going To Miss Almost Everything, resonated strongly with me. I feel like there are too many books to read in order to read them all.
Now, everything gets dropped into our laps, and there are really only two responses if you want to feel like you’re well-read, or well-versed in music, or whatever the case may be: culling and surrender.
Culling is the choosing you do for yourself. It’s the sorting of what’s worth your time and what’s not worth your time. It’s saying, “I deem Keeping Up With The Kardashians a poor use of my time, and therefore, I choose not to watch it.” It’s saying, “I read the last Jonathan Franzen book and fell asleep six times, so I’m not going to read this one.”
Surrender, on the other hand, is the realization that you do not have time for everything that would be worth the time you invested in it if you had the time, and that this fact doesn’t have to threaten your sense that you are well-read. Surrender is the moment when you say, “I bet every single one of those 1,000 books I’m supposed to read before I die is very, very good, but I cannot read them all, and they will have to go on the list of things I didn’t get to.”
I use the resolutions to indicate what I deem worth my time. One year it was science, history, and policy kinds of books. I wanted to enrich my thinking. This year I figured my background in books most people have read was still lacking, so I picked a list. I get lots of comments from others saying they either have or want to read these books, so it was a decent list.
At times, I choose to cull my life by removing activities which I find unnecessary distractions. Too much social activity weighs down on me to the point I get edgy and snap at the people around me. It disappoints people for me to pull away, but this is what is good for me. I’ve seen people similarly cull their Facebook friends list to limit it to positive people. We should do what is necessary to protect our sanity and allow us to achieve our goals.
Also, I have surrendered on some books. I just get bogged down in not having enough interest. There are plenty of other, better books I could be reading. I try not to beat myself up about surrendering on a book.
Georgia Performance Standards has a million words a year goal. “Chapter books average 250 words per page.” 1,000,000 words / 250 words/page = 4,000 pages. Also, at 100 words per minute, that is about a 167 hour investment in either learning or developing empathy. That is the equivalent of a couple university lectures.