If there is an epistemological Occam’s Razor, that things should not be multiplied beyond necessity and theories streamlined to an optimal minimum – there should be a cognitive Occam’s Guillotine as well. Things ought not to be accepted without a struggle. Everything which presents itself to consciousness as a convenient, frictionless truth ought to be received with suspicion and taken with a pinch of doubt, or more.
We know little about the internal struggle of those who came up with the most brilliant and age-shattering ideas. But there is abundant evidence of how long and arduous the road was to those individual ideas maturing into culture.
The trouble with books today is that there are so many of them. That’s a good thing, too. But it also carries with it the temptation to think that because there is so much that the eyes can scan and the mind can capture, one should spend as little time as possible on each book, each text and each idea before moving on to the next one. Call it a kind of literate FOMO. A little bit of cutting corners to extend the range. Only that the range is illusory.
Every technology has its mythology, and the psychotechnology of reading and writing is no exception. It usually takes illiterate societies centuries, if not more, to integrate any kind of change. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the absorption of written words by the human mind happens very slowly, like the breakdown of food in human digestion.
The eye is quick, but the mind is slow. And the collective intelligence of a reading group is even slower. Which is exactly as it should be, if ideas are to be absorbed properly and made use of nutritiously.
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