Case in point – you are reading some of it right now.
Unlike drinking water, however, filtered reading is not purer or even tastier. Filtered water may seem more palatable and feels safer. None of that nasty giardia lamblia, or cryptosporidium to worry about. But in the process of filtering much is lost and something is typically added. When hiking the
There were times, especially in the southern states, where I was extremely glad to have a quality filter. The water sources were sluggish and sometimes stagnant. Muddy water was more common than clean water. In these cases, the filter was a godsend. But as I moved further north I found more and more springs and high altitude streams to drink from. Especially once into the
I have read much about these books. I have actually read very little of the books themselves. As I mentioned before, it takes work. First you have to find them. They are not always down in the valleys, along the highways where they are easily accessible. In fact, much of what you find in along the roads must be filtered. The purer better reading requires climbing and effort and sweat to attain. One has to be in a certain mental condition to get to where one can drink from those wells.
But, if my metaphor holds true, it is totally worth it. The experience of drinking directly from a mountain stream, plunging your face into the frigid water and sucking deep draughts of cold liquid diamond is elemental and altogether delicious. There is no better tasting water in the world. I suppose a scientist could argue, stating that the mineral content is not appreciably different or better than tap water, and that the risk of contamination is higher, but it’s not about minerals. It’s about the spirit of the water, I think.
I suspect the same may be true of the great books. There is something valuable in the work, in the spirit of the original work, the primary source. It is colder, fresher and cleaner, even though the language may be archaic and strange to the ears. The ideas are direct, unfiltered and bear with them a raw energy not present in commentaries and criticisms. Not that we should not read writing about writing. I suspect, however, that I would do well to drink more from mountain streams than I do, and I would do well to read more of the primary sources than I do.
We cannot afford to be lazy in anything we do. We can least afford it when it comes to our hearts and our minds.