I wish I had more reading time. Time built into the system and schedule that was reserved for reading is what I mean. Of course I can make that time happen at the expense of other important things: administrative duties (debate), chatting with students, course prep, writing for the purpose of non-blog publication - all of which occupy a place of equal merit (except perhaps the last one where one labors most intensely to reach an audience of maybe 14 people in an academic journal).
Reading's importance has gained a lot more value in the current global political climate as most things you read work to create important political space for crafting resistance - the distance between reality and its certain articulation must always be kept high in order to avoid the mistakes that certainty brings with it. At the level of national or international politics these mistakes can be catastrophic.
The articulation of reality receives its most thorough study in novels and these books that I don't know what they are called, but I really like them, where an author carefully and diligently traces out in detail everything that surrounds a poem, a set of letters, a painting - something like that and connects the text to the context in the most complex and myriad ways, until it's nearly impossible to see the subject matter as anything other than arising out of a multiplicity of various things, one next to another, all in vacillating states of importance but none expendable.
The novel too works wonders by placing you in deep sympathy with one or two other people then giving you their point of view and allowing you to get it. You see why they decide what they decide and how their articulation of reality works. The novel allows us to put these articulations of reality next to one another, or even do mash ups and place an articulation in the position of a character that seems counterintuitive. Mikhail Bahktin talks about all of these features across his works, claiming the novel is an amazing thing due to the heteroglossia it allows to bubble up to the top. We get to see how disconnected and well connected our articulations of reality are to reality. This creates space where there might not be much.
But today we value and talk to one another and teach and critique those who open such spaces, preferring instead the dominating discourses of logic, reason, and pseudo-rhetorics like statistics and economics. We praise those who can reduce our understanding of the world to numbers and percentages, who can aptly use metaphors from sports-as-entertainment to wipe away the muddiness of daily experience and make us feel comfortable. But we go to sleep on a hard slab that doesn't quite give us the rest we need. We need some sort of space some give to our articulations so that we can create, be generative, and explore new ways of talking about the world. These new ways of articulating create new ways of being and seeing one another, after all what are we if we are not described well, and often, and in a way that accounts for the passing of the days?
Reality and its articulation should be on everyone's mind. Instead reality and getting it right is on everyone's mind and we are ready to welcome catastrophe into our homes in order to get it right. If we can place getting it right as a long term goal and accept the idea of getting it, walking around in it, that would be great. Can we move political conversation out of the science lab and into the art museum? We need time to walk around, read the curators' notes, stand in different places and look at what's on the wall. Then we need time for a coffee and a friend to say "did you see what I saw?" We don't get that in the science lab, even if the Good Liberals win the fight and prove to us that our lab is indeed in the basement of an evil pharmaceutical corporation. The goal is not understanding, but being right in a way that has value for exchange; commodity rightness. Right as commodity.
The importance of disrupting the ability to be right at all is essential for politics. We should lament politics as a space vastly different from corporate science or other discourses about discovering hidden rightness and then profiting off of it. Nobody should profit off of a good political conversation, we should all be left less willing to full-on defend a policy than we were at the beginning. Best of all abandoning rightness means that some policies never make it into the realm of consideration as policies simply because they are too firm.
Reading frequently and reflecting on how and why the books we like are so good is simultaneously a reflection on how meaning gets made and how we come to believe in belief. The distance between reality and the articulation of reality should have a permanent space between them for our consideration. But rhetoric feels so much better when it eliminates that distance, making the apprehension of reality appear to be its revelation. We have to avoid this, no matter how comfortable it feels, for what comes next after the revelation of the real is the demand to obey it. There is no point to reconsidering what is true under this rubric.