A friend directs Viewpoint to a troubling report about the decline of reading in America. Here's an excerpt:
If this is true it has the potential to be a cultural catastrophe. Immersing oneself in literature is one of the most effective ways to be introduced to the big ideas of religion, politics, philosophy, and even science. It's a great way to learn history. A society which stops reading is much less likely to develop depth in any of these areas of their intellectual life. If we truly are no longer exposing ourselves to the literary heritage handed down to us by former generations we are impoverishing our minds by a kind of intellectual depression which does to a nation culturally what an economic depression does to it financially.
Perhaps the decline in good reading is partly responsible for the superficiality of so many young people who live like intellectual water-striders, gliding across the surface of life, never breaking through to experience the depths below.
Not a few young women, for example, seem interested in little more than shopping, their social life, the celebrities they read about in People magazine, and their romantic interests, not necessarily in that order. The preoccupations of many young men, on the other hand, go no deeper than sports, cars, beer, and sex.
Literature raises us above this brutishness. It sharpens our minds and attunes them to an awareness that there is more to life than merely gratifying impulses and appetites. It enriches us in ways that money and physical satisfactions never can. A man or woman may be economically poor but spiritually and intellectually rich. Such people's lives are noble despite their poverty.
And that is what we're losing, if indeed we are losing our appreciation for literature. We're losing our nobility.