I welcomed your inclusion of the Washington Post article on April 7 (“Is skim reading taking over the human brain?”).
Brain scientists do well to alert us.
Deep reading might well save us, the planet and all its creatures, from ourselves.
Author Karen Armstrong (“The Power of Myth”), as it happens, supports such a radical assertion.
The article says that in adapting to the online “torrent of information,” our brains seem inadvertently to be developing “new circuits for skimming,” thus competing with “traditional deep reading circuitry developed over millennia.”
Ms. Armstrong, a former nun and now the renowned British scholar of world religions, identifies two sources of truth, both essential and requiring deep reading.
The first is “logos,” or reason. (One branch of it, medical science, saved my life.)
The other source is what the comparative theologian calls “mythos.” Great works of art and literature – both secular and religious – are also bearers of truth.
They include ancient sacred stories like the Tower of Babel and Adam and Eve; parables such as the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son; and the Greek myth of Narcissus, whose attachment to his beautiful self-image renders him blind to any needs beyond his own.
Such stories, Ms. Armstrong asserts, show us “how to look into our own hearts to see the world differently,” and to identify with all our fellow human beings – not just with “those who belong to our own ethnic, national or ideological tribe.”
Such provocative narratives hold wisdom for life today – politically, internationally and personally.
The convergence of neuroscientist Maryanne Wolf of Tufts, whom the article quotes, and scholar Karen Armstrong seems providential.
There is a time for skimming and a time for deep reading. We imperil ourselves to lose the latter.
Alfred M. Niese