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I've sensed an insistent undercurrent in our society that many people are not reading much, if at all. They watch the moving media: movies, shows, video clips, image collages - whatever keeps their eyes and ears tightly engaged. Here on Facebook we get 'reels', we get 'stories', we get visual teasers, anything that keeps us where the words are few and the action is constant. Instagram, TikTok, and others are even more intense.

All this makes writing and reading look drab, boring, and demanding, making the writer seem like some spinster aunt or doddering uncle out to take up our precious time with a lot of wearying blather.

But there is a simple reason for reading and writing. They make life possible. They save lives. They build societies, They elevate cultures. They give existence a moral spine. They fire up the imagination, the inventive power, the artistic juices that empower us all.

There's a saying: "When all else fails, read the instructions." Someone had to write those instructions. Everyone has to read the instructions. There's no instruction in watching the catastrophes on the 'reels' on Facebook - they're just mental chewing gum, and the flavor wears off and leaves nothing.

What about movies and streaming shows? Well, someone wrote them. Actors read them. They get served up predigested for viewers who for the most part prefer to treat them as those 'reels', with nothing transformative about them. Shows that transform us, such as "Johnny Got His Gun", "1491", or "Lovecraft Country", emerge from great writing, but they are relegated to obscurity behind comic-book sagas and sanitized cartoons.

People who do not read are swallowed up and mesmerized by voice and video. They lose independence of thought. They are easily led. They make great soldiers, servants, even slaves. They die believing in the sensory phantasms, the constructed mirages that consume their thirsty attention. Much of the good within them perishes with them.

But if they read the great stores of knowledge and wisdom, all on their own, they would explore truth independently. The great faiths bestow great awareness, wisdom, and power on the readers of their texts, all of these virtues streaming down through time and across the planet. The same is true for scientific knowledge. It is all written. It does not fly past to be forgotten in the next flickering scene. It is there to be read. It can and will transform and uplift their lives.

History is written, not just by the victors, but by the survivors. If we read history, it transforms us. We survive better. Less often do we end as a decaying soldier in an exploded tank or a rice paddy.

Reading, actual reading, can be and should be transformative. That's why writers are moved to write.
   
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