Reading with the eyes

While watching a movie or listening to a concert may be sharable activities, reading is not. You may get together to watch Netflix, or sit next to each other in a music hall for a symphony (discounting Covid, of course). But you won’t gather in front of a book to share a read.

Reading is an individual activity for as long as it remains visual. Listening to an audiobook, for instance, is not reading. Reading to your kids is not reading, at least not for them. Reading together from a prayer book in church is not reading, either.

Reading is all about the eyes. A page is read differently by everyone, so it can’t be shared. The eyes move differently across the page, the mind might stop here and there, but never in the same places for everyone. Reading a page is a totally different experience from watching a moving picture of a similar duration. Watching a video is a sharable experience because the eyes are captive to the rolling frames. In the case of reading, the page is captive to the moving eyes. As each reader brings different eyes to the page, no single text can be read by two or more people together.

It is no surprise then that reading has always been associated with solitariness. For better or for worse. A wholesome place of refuge or an escape from human company.

The god of reading is a selfish demiurge.

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