Most of what I do for a living involves reading and writing, so hardly a day goes by that I’m not smack in the middle of extended exposure to the written word. But for the last few days, the office has thrown so much at me, I haven’t had time, much less the brain power, to grab even my lunchtime’s worth of engaging pages for my own pleasure and sense of meaning.
So the question might be, then, does all the professional data thanks to which I earn my keep count as any more than just information? It’s definitely a step, maybe even a few, above spreadsheet-level interestingness. But it certainly doesn’t leave me with any sort of satisfaction, or feeling as if I’ve contributed anything to or necessarily taken anything good or useful away from my waking hours. It’s a no-brainer to say so, but it’s remarkable how different aspects or styles of the same activity– here, reading– can result in that very activity’s triggering a broad spectrum of emotional reactions– even to the point where the very same content will seem either horrendous or delicious depending on the reason it’s being engaged. Tell me to brush up on the forty-seven ronin for a little piece due tomorrow, and I’ll probably approach the whole thing at best with mild interest laced with impatience to be done with it. Include it in a history of Japan I might be delving into for no purpose at all before bedtime, and it’ll draw me in like any other swashbuckling tale.
What I’m really talking about is environment, it seems– a discussion that could veer off into why I can generally write at a coffee shop, with its ambient noise, but not at a library, with its mostly-silence, and especially not at the office, where I can’t ever imagine the right head space for self-expression and creative vulnerability could survive. And then, too, we’re confronted with the fact that most of us, I’m guessing, would in no way consider those eight-or-so hours a day devoted to someone else’s concerns as remotely representative of our real lives.
But questions of work and alienation have long been tossed about, and now that I actually have some time and a semi-rested mind, I’ll set aside the opportunity to add my voice to that particular discussion, and finally go tuck into a book of my own choosing.