For the Sake of Shakespeare, Cross Speedreading out of Your Resolution

Anyone who has tried to build their reading habit has had this one thought, “What if I can read it faster?” and then your mind launches into this dreamy fantasy of you breezing through War and Peace as if it were a boring celebrity magazine with a huge library of books that you’ve finished in the recent years.

It certainly is a sweet fantasy because to be completely honest, reading takes time, a lot of time, the same time that can be spent sleeping, earning money, or hanging out with your family at your back porch.
But should you entertain this fantasy? Should you want to read faster?

I think not. I mean, some things should be sped up for the sake of your sanity, i.e., reading assigned textbooks that were actually written by your professors, but meaningful activities should not be sped up! Do you wish to be at the end of your life, and say with a self-satisfied smile, “Phew, now that’s a quick life. I’m glad I got that over.”

If you have the urge to speed read through your current book, then either you’re reading the wrong way, or the wrong book. It takes time to dig depth and forge intimacy. It doesn’t matter how soon you can breeze through a book, it’s the impact of the book upon your life that counts. Books are not trophy for you to hang upon the wall.

“But I can actually remember the essential information from the book I’ve speed read, so speed reading is not that bad” you said. Well, does that matter? Information can be looked up pretty easily in this age. Books are supposed to make you think, to make you evaluate your life, to see things in a new light. Information gained from books might be enough for you to survive final exams, but to add flavors to your life? That requires more than a few simple hours of leafing through pages. It demands digestion, comparison, and explanation. It demands that you should have an intimate dialogue with the author through the work and ask questions, life-changing questions to your assumptions. And that simply cannot be achieved through speed reading.

1-w52KjxC7rJz7Ufwq6hIZrA

Don’t fall into your ego’s trap and try to surf your way through reading just to increase the amount on your “read” list. And if you’re halfway through the trap already, well, ask yourself, of all the hundred books you’ve boasted of having read, how many can you really recall? How many still emits a warmth in your heart just by thinking about it? Because great books? Great books that you’ve thoroughly read on the pages and between the lines? They stay with you. They might not always float through your consciousness, but just like a beautiful childhood memory, they will visit you from time to time and leave a trail of perfume scents on its wake.

“But.. but, this book is too long. It’s 700 pages! How can I possibly enjoy reading it slowly?” you ask. Well, if it’s a great book, you will have to bear it. Great lives have boring period and great books have boring sections. Would you rather read 3 mediocre, plot-driven books that you are likely to forget 2 months from now instead? That’s like wishing to have 3 acquaintances whose names you will only remember for a week instead of a close friend who knows all your woes and happiness. A deep friendship takes lots of time and struggle to form but once it’s established, it adds so much more value to your life than three acquaintances whom you occasionally party with. Books are the same. If you really wish to gain wisdom from the compacted thought of a person in the form of a book, to savor the enjoyment of pacing a new world, then I’d suggest you to not speed read. Take your time. Look at the cover. Spend time with the characters. Study their motives. Imagine yourself in their shoes. Appreciate the author’s way of constructing a new world through a dozen squiggles on the page. Soak in the sunshine of metaphors. Now, even if you’re not big on fiction, you can do the same with non-fictions. Don’t just pace through the book. Read it and spend some time turning the concept over. Prod it from several different angles. Draw your own examples. I assure you, reading is much more satisfying and helpful in the long run that way.

The irony here is that, as you spend more time soaking up books in the appropriate pace for you to comprehend, you will actually increase your reading skills and be able to read faster. Don’t believe me? Read a few of these blog posts about the flaws of speed reading techniques and do your own research!

https://www.wired.com/2017/01/make-resolution-read-speed-reading-wont-help/

https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog/2015/01/19/speed-reading-redo/

http://lifehacker.com/the-truth-about-speed-reading-1542508398

A Decade Long Realization: Harry Freaking Potter

Probably a week ago, I went to watch Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the second serial installment of the famous Harry Potter universe. To be completely honest, I’d been quite unenthusiastic since I thought I’d grown out of this raging HP fan girl phase, that I’d milked whatever lesson it could have given me in that point of time.

No sooner did the WB logo appeared that I realized I’d been kinda wrong. As the movie progressed, my sense of awe at the Harry Potter universe, nay, at the reoccurring theme that tied this new movie to the old ones grew to a point that I had to stop and cry a few tears of nostalgia mixed with a hint of courage.

In this new movie, the legendary Newt Scamander went about one of his adventures in America in the 1920s. Although it was completely unrelated to the Harry Potter universe save for their collective magical abilities, and some mentions of a few characters here and there, there was an apparent tie. The tie? It’s the fact that Newt was not welcomed; Newt, even with his interesting choice of a career, was not praised in his homeland, nor in America. Wizards, in general, did not believe that magical beasts could make good friends in the 1920s just like how the whole wizarding world did not believe Harry when he told of Voldemort’s return. Although Newt was battling a social injustice much different than the mudblood situation in the 1990s, they were essentially fighting the same battle, a battle against a society of people (or wizards in this case) who are riddled with prejudice and most importantly, who did not take their views seriously. This reminded me, forcefully, of the emotions I first felt reading Harry Potter. The reason it has a special place in my heart in the first place is the courage it’s instilled in me.

Growing up, I, and no doubt other kids in the “millennial” generation are often dubbed as lazy, entitled, lacking in motivation and/or obsessed with technology. This is nothing new, really. It’s been found that people have been putting their next generation down for as long as civilization started.

hesiod_pseudo-seneca_bm_gr1962-8-24-1Hesiod, a Greek poet said this about the young of his time, “They only care about frivolous things. When I was a boy, we were taught to be discrete and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly… impatient of restraint.” (watch a hilarious talk from Adam Conover about this exact topic here)

 

 

It becomes dangerous when the generation that is put down actually believes so. I know that is my case- the all too common case of this condescending attitude actually creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more I was dubbed as irresponsible, the more irresponsible I became. The more I was dubbed as airheaded, the more airheaded I became. It created this polar sense of self in me so severe that at one point, I thought I was developing a split personality disorder because I was responsible and careful in school or any other social interactions, but would be magically turned into this callous pig in the vicinity of my abode.

That all started to change once I got immersed into the Harry Potter universe. Here were these kids, no older than my age, who were actually taken seriously by some people (what a wild concept!). Here were children who had to decide what to do, in order to fight for what they believed in. Although their decisions sometimes lead to devastating results, some of them actually turned out to be right. I was mind-blown! This was proof that just because I was young didn’t mean I shouldn’t live my life in this moment however I saw fit.

This also leads me to another conclusion, that I should not hold on to this unhealthy obsession with vintage stuff, or this fantasy of the future. I’m living in the present, and I can make changes here and now. The wise of the past had their share of problems, and the wise of the future will have theirs. Me? I have my share of time right now, with real problems and opportunities and it’s just foolish to not take part in the here and now.

 

You see? This is why Harry Potter fans cling to it. You can’t just grow out of something that makes you who you are. Stories like this; they stay with you forever.

 

Thanks, J.K. Rowling. Thank you for everything.

Prep Yourself for College- Part II: What to Do

Yesterday, I’ve posted the first article of the Prep Yourself for College series by listing what you should have before you start your freshman days (read it here), now onto the second one which is just basically a list of general tips.

Bear in mind that here are what I’ve personally learnt during my college days. Feel free to try them out, or not (it’s up to you; you’re legally an adult now).

  1. Read a lot: yes, read. And no, don’t just read those boring assigned books you’ve done in the past, I mean read! Read odd topics such as the history of war, or pho origin or female prostitute-turn-powerful-pirate, or stars, or whatever.
    Expand your mind! College is a pause for breath before you dive into the workforce, so why not spend this time exploring as many topics as you can? Don’t graduate an uncultured swine (I love you if you get this reference).
    You can get a membership (costs 3 USD in average) in many small libraries. My favorite ones are:
  • Hun Sen Library in Royal University of Phnom Penh (check it out here)
  • Toshu Fukami Library in the University of Cambodia (check it out here)
  • RUPP’s Department of Media and Communication Library (check it out here)If you want to own a book instead, check out these bookstores (they are my heavens):
  • Monument Book (check it out here)
  • D’s Books (check it out here): I actually like hanging out in D’s, just strolling or sitting in its café. Very relaxing music, and quite many books to choose from!
  • Bohr’s Books (check it out here): very different selections from D’s, yet beautiful all the same.If you’re like me, who are quite frustrated at not being able to find a particular book in Cambodia, these free e-book sites are e-heavens for you:
  • b-ok.org (heaven, I tell ya!)
  • gen.lib.rus.ec (an even bigger heaven)If you do not like the uncomfortable feelings caused by starting at your mobile devices while reading, I sincerely urge you to consider buying yourself a Kindle. Investing a couple of hundred dollars for a life-long path to heaven. I’d say that’s fair enough.
  1. Volunteer: you’ve probably heard of how volunteerism helps you. Yes, it does help your resume. Yes, it does help you make friends, and yes, it does help with experience. But most importantly, volunteer because you genuinely care. There are many (and I mean MANY) aspects of our society that needs improving, and more than ever, youths play an important part in that process. You need experience, and they need a helping hand. Win-win. And please, please do not just go for the sake of appearing to help. Think long and hard before engaging in any volunteer project. Make sure that you are really passionate about the cause before applying because once you are in, you will need to put efforts in driving the cause forward. Please don’t just show up, snap a selfie, and leave. You won’t learn anything, and it actually damages your credit!
  2. Make new friends: it’s very rare for high school friends to stay close in college. I really applaud those who can, but most of the time, people drift away because they are no longer heading to the same direction. College is a place where you can make new friends! You don’t need to immediately make close friends and post pictures with the hashtag #bff; it’s fun to just have acquaintances from all walks of life. Do not expect everyone to want to be close with you. The goal is just to explore and learn. Talk to new people, and learn from them!
  3. Apply for exchange programs: and not just to boast to your friends that you are capable of being selected either. Apply for exchange programs because by doing so, you can open your eyes to the differences and similarities between your country and others. Expand your mind (without fee too, I might add). You can check pages such as WEduShare (here), Youth Development Center (here), Ahladang(here), and Youthop (here) for any exchange and volunteer opportunities that might arise.

I’m sure you can now sense the underlying theme behind all these tips.

It’s to explore! Do not worry about getting your life together yet. Hell, just a few months ago, you needed to ask permission to pee! Now, you’re expected to make life decisions?

College is essentially a playground for you. Develop your own sense of right and wrong, explore, and learn from whatever means you can- people, volunteering, exchange programs or books. The most intelligent of brains can do nothing if it does not have any material to rearrange. Feed your mind!

Remember that you are shaping your life right now. Make sure you have enough food upon which your mind feeds.

Read the third, and final article of the Prep for College series on how to study effectively here!

Complementary article on why should you read literature and the third

The Manual

For years, she’s searched for The Manual.

Somehow, she’s always thought life on earth came with a perfect guidance on how to live, that lies somewhere, in some random stranger’s life story, or a dusty book nobody has ever heard about.

 

You see? Every time she discovered a new manual, she would act accordingly.

Dress like this, talk like that, look at it from this perspective, they would say.

And she would gladly follow, thinking this was it, this was the key to living well.

But it was never “it”.

There often come oppositions, other ways of lives that claim to be better than the current manual in her hand.

Pursue riches, get a house, dream of fame, one would say.

The other would nudge her to travel, to be adventurous while another would sing for her to enjoy the simplicity of life, the little drizzling rains hitting her own bedroom window.

 

One manual would tell her to always be there for her friends while another told her to put her self-love first.

One told her to bear hopes; the other scoffed at her for even attempting to find any meaning in this empty life at all.

 

You see? For years, she’s flitted from one manual to another, like a confused fruit fly.

Surely, with all these contradicting guides, there must be the ultimate manual that would put these all to shame. Surely, if she talked with enough people, and read enough obscure books, she would find it.

But it surely did not turn out that way. The piled-up manuals she’s gathered one day chocked the air inside her rib cage, muddled her will to live.

 

And at that moment, during her last gasp for air, she finally realizes there’s no one true manual to rule them all. In fact, different people have different guides, and it’s okay if those contradict.

She realizes she was born manual-less, not so she can copy it from other people, but that she should write her own manual. How? She doesn’t know quite yet, but at least she knows this time, it will be her blood in the ink, her thoughts in the squiggles and her heart in the paragraphs.

Literature is Lit!

 

 

Living in Cambodia, you can say for sure that there is not that many book-lovers here. Even though some might be interested in reading, a handful of them are only interested in readings that claim outright to make them better aka the self-help books and the management sort of books. Reading literature is far, far down the list of their to-do list.

It’s just a story, they would argue, but what is shocking to me is finding out that even those who are supposedly majoring in English, who are attending a Literature Study class, are also too lazy to read a story before summarizing and analyzing it. I mean…. I do know that reading might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but these people are studying English for God’s sake. I know thanks to the internet, the attention span of youths now are mostly that of a goldfish’s, but if you are tasked to analyze a story, you should have the decency to read the story before presenting it. Continue reading Literature is Lit!

Born Privileged

I was born with the privilege of a heightened sense of curiosity, so the reality opens up a world of numberless possibilities. No boredom can penetrate this veil of thirst for knowledge. Life becomes an ever-going treasure hunt with new treasure chest popping up in every new corner. Even in the lowest of time, where all hope loses, there remains the hope, nay, aspiration to the next treasure hunt that fuels my soul. Continue reading Born Privileged