The Art of Reading

What we hear the philosophers saying and what we find in their writings should be applied in our pursuit of the happy life. We should hunt out the helpful pieces of teaching, and the spirited and noble-minded sayings which are capable of immediate practical application ā€“ not far-fetched or archaic expressions or extravagant metaphors and figures of speech ā€“ and learn them so well that words become works. (Seneca, Letters from a Stoic)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I like to think of reading as an Art/Game [<link; short length], so both as an Art and as a Game.”


“Thinking of something as an Art/Game forms a specific mental representation, which influences how you practically engage in the activity. So Art/Game is a mental model.”

“Does it mean you can think about pretty much anything as an Art/Game?”

“For me, that’s what the Art of Playful Living is about.

I also like to think of reading as a system, which is part of the larger system, the Art/Game of Learning.

I don’t read just for the pleasure of reading; I read in order to learn.

“But you do find reading pleasurable.”

“I do. However the pleasure of reading is a by-product, not an end in itself. It’s a cultivated pleasure, subordinate to a higher-order pleasure.”

“What does your reading system look like?”

“One way to look at it is through the lens of the input/output mental model.

What’s the desired output?

What is the input? 
What is the output?

Another lens is the quality mental model.

What os the quality of the input?
What is the quality of the output?

For me the desired output is learning. I look for things that permanently enrich my inner world (persistent mental representations), things that enrich my understanding (of the world and myself), and things that have practical application.

Quality output is the extent to which the information grows you, and what you do with the information.

The input is that of absorbing information. In terms of quality, there’s two aspects to it:
the quality of the information, which requires discernment, and
the quality of the absorption process.

The absorption process has two components: note-taking, and integration. The focus is not on memorizing, but understanding.

“Isn’t integration part of the output?”

“It’s also part of the output. It starts with the input.

The quality of the output is dependent on the quality of the input.

Another lens is the passive/active mental model.

There’s an important distinction to be made between passive and active reading.

Passive reading is lazy reading, and highly inefficient.

Artful/Playful reading is active reading. Playing with the ideas as you encounter them, connecting them with other ideas on the fly.

Active reading is an oscillation, alternating between reading and reflection.

Another distinction I like to make is between passive and active knowledge.

Passive knowledge is knowledge that gathers dust inside your brain.

Artful/Playful reading produces active knowledge. Knowledge that has usable form, and is accessible, that is, indexed for efficient access.”

“What do you mean by ‘usable form’?”

“I mean extracting the essence of ideas and converting it into tools: directives (rules), questions, mental-models, life-algorithms [<link; medium], etc.”



About Dani Trusca

Life-Artist, Thinker, Mover (Traceur)

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