From Alan Jacobs’s essay, Reverting to Type:
In many respects, going back to the kinds of books I used to read has also meant going back to the kinds of reading habits I used to have. Just as there was a point in my life when I had to remind myself to grab that pencil, the time eventually came when I had to remind myself to leave it where it was and grasp the book (or the Kindle) in my two otherwise empty hands. The object now was not to prepare for class or develop a scholarly argument, but rather to become lost in a book, as I once was often; to be self-forgetful for a while.
Jacobs’s work first came to my attention when I was in college working on my senior project. His book How to Think, published last year, and his presence at this year’s Mockingbird NYC conference brought him back on to my radar. Although I’d been interested in the intersection of theology and literature while in college (I essentially wanted to do his current job for a living; things took a different turn), I never realized how much our interests overlapped. Take, for example, this other passage from the same essay:
I have similar thoughts about Danny Hillis’s wonderful little book The Pattern On The Stone: The Simple Ideas That Make Computers Work, which was the book that made me believe I could learn at least a little scripting, if not full-fledged programming. Like Dawkins’s account of how evolutionary biology builds up reliable historical evidence, Hillis’s account of computer design explains how the simplest elements — Boolean logic applied to the most elementary distinction of all, that between on and off, yes and no, 1 and 0 — ultimately yields the staggering power of modern computers and their networks. How cool to think about. How useful to internalize these procedures — or at least to attempt to — in order to structure and buttress one’s own thinking.
Coincidentally, Hillis’s book provided the impetus that actually drove me into full-fledged programming. It’s encouraging to see someone in the humanities extend their interests in technology to the point of trying to code themselves. Although only two years in to my software career, I find myself trying to do the same thing from the other side of the humanities/STEM divide; extending my interests beyond detached observation to actually engaging with them, even though I may not make a career of it.
But I digressed completely from why I started writing this in the first place. I’ve been rediscovering the joy of reading and writing again; not for personal development or career advancement, but “to be self-forgetful for a while.” Although there are times I wish I could get paid to read books or study a subject and write and teach about it, software development has been a blessing not just for the opportunities it’s provided me, but for the fact that it’s forced me to learn the joy of reading and writing for their own sake - to learn to love what I’m doing and forget myself for a bit.