Thoughts in the 300’s of the library nonfiction section

It’s really scary to look at a mental floss magazine and feel no interest- a small repulsion, to be honest- in reading it. Years ago, in middle and high schools, I’d have snapped up that periodical and devoured it from cover to cover, delighting in all the exciting facts smeared throughout eighty pages. It was a gift to data-hungry nerds like me. Now, just like how depression renders you indifferent to things you used to enjoy, I move past the book with a heavy heart that remembers when the magazine was a friend. (This is not to say I’m depressed- I think I’m just growing up and my interests are changing.)
This happens frequently in the library now. Nearly the entire science section glares at me with its noble books urging me to memorize their insides so as to make myself into a more formidable scientist. Instead, I chalk it up to years of grueling studying for a biology degree and again move on. I rationalize that I’m allowed to want to indulge in the flowery language of cookbooks and feminist publications in my free time. However, this can’t be a good sign, to not want to savor more biology in my free time. That scares me.
The new and popular nonfiction has a little more intrigue, but mostly from the food books. Even these are decreasing in fun because food is so overrated. That seems to be a lesson in my slightly depressing postgrad life: multitudes of things once glittering with excitement are overrated. In many lights, the things I love are included in this sad idea: plants, evolution, cooking. However, in the right classes, articles, and parks, they shine with eons of mystery and relentless inspiration. I must cling to the moments that expose this fragile wonder.
How am I going to live a life that optimizes this inspiration while keeping a minimum to the BS, busy work, stress, competition, and other superficial systematics that uphold the science world?

In high school, I lost interest in reading. I think it was because I’d had to read intensely in order to finish the assignment without losing sleep (already going to bed at 10:30/11 was really hard on my sleep) and it made me bitter. Just like how deciding to pursue a past hobby and change it into a job can make one bitter, reading transformed from an enjoyable pastime into a chore. I also developed a habit of perpetually skimming everything I read. It’s a habit that frustrates me to no end when I try to soak up a Sunday NYT session and end up having read an article’s final sentence with half the emotion and knowledge I would’ve extracted before all this nonsense began. I totally blame school for these impediments. I know I can break them but, like any habit, it will be a challenge. Decreasing attention span thank to social media should also be mentioned here.

Audiobooks have helped put back literature into my life. I have hope that, after enjoying a few more, I’ll have developed the patience and courage necessary to take up a thick hardcover and savor it. Cross your fingers for me and every other milennial who deeply delights in photoshopped images of old books with vintage tea sets and a rainy setting but who can’t muster the patience to enter that world themselves.

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The Media: How to Deal?

As with innumerable topics right now, I’m seriously confused about how to embrace the media.

It’s true that the media is a shapeless, massive conglomeration of sources, voices, biases, and subjects. So, I really shouldn’t generalize it. So, let me start small.

Here are some of the major media sources that affect me daily:

-Newspaper

-Televised news or programs

-Magazines

-Advertising

-Radio

-Social Media

This morning, I settled into a recent publication of The Intelligent Optimist. Thank goodness that I have access to these sources- without them, I’d shrivel into a little raisin of hopelessness! Anyway, about six articles in, I felt my body relax into the equivalent of a literary hug. These days, I feel like I’m constantly fighting external sources, like the media, that threaten my mental wellbeing. Anyone ever quit social media for some mental respite? What about install an ad blocker on your computer so you could avoid constantly advertisements? Fast-forwarding commercials on your TiVo, changing the radio station when the ads come on, tearing out two-sided advertisements in magazines before you venture to read it? (The last one may just be me.) It truly feels like I’m waging a war against these sneaky poisons. Once you’ve seen the documentaries that highlight the correlations between the power of airbrushed models and stick-thin adolescents or recognize that lawyer’s jingle twenty years after you heard the commercials, it’s hard (at least, for me) to cede control. Those years of work I’ve put in to protect myself are priceless.

By the way, want to reduce the ceaseless self-comparison that Facebook promotes but still enjoy the site? Try this demetricator!

Ok, so, where were we…

My aunt is a valiant proponent of prison reform and has thus endured oceans of mental turmoil over her years of progress. She can deeply appreciate books with content whose difficulty is just as rewarding in measure. Lately, all I’ve wanted to read are lighter, more neutral books about the genome or Dublin or Miss Brodie and her gang. Does this mean that it’s 1) not the right time in my life to attempt to conquer more stressful books, 2) I should just get a thicker skin and read them, or 3) possibly never read them if I maintain this level of stress throughout my life? There are some forms of art I hope to never fully “appreciate”, such as horror movies. I deem the value of those to be less than a highly regarded Toni Morrison novel (yes, I’m judging.) How strong is the “should” in terms of me reading those difficult books? Says whom?

How important is it that I expose myself, day after day, to the atrocities I hear on the news? I understand that it’s important to be aware of current events. However, it seems like, because they get so much of a reaction, media outlets doggedly communicate the grisliest news stories about killings, crimes, and negative anythings. Are there any news sources out there that are truly neutral and report for the sake of informing the world and not for personal gain?

My dad wisely exhorts me to read multiple, varied media outlets for my news. This also extends to reading magazines about life in the west, anarchy, Waldorf philosophy, and photography, among others, to gain a better view of what’s out there beyond my sphere.

How responsible am I to learn about what’s going on thousands of miles away from my little house, concerning people I’ll never meet? I know this sounds exceedingly close-minded and naive. However, stay with me: if those news stories act as punches being blown to my mental stability, day after day, what’s the proper course of action?

It’s amazing when one small story can bring a massive community together. Even better when it begets real change.

If my career has an activism aspect to it, is that enough? What’s enough?