In a wonderful article from Harper’s Magazine, No Time But the Present , Alan Jacobs argues that reading old books makes our lives better:
To read old books is not simply to escape our current condition of frenetic standstill, the torrent of data and demand managed moment by moment (though, to my mind, occasional escape is not a bad thing). Rather, it’s a kind of judicious stepping back, the taking of a few deep breaths before plunging back in. An opportunity for reflection, a reminder that there are, to borrow a phrase from Truman Capote, “other voices, other rooms”: people with concerns and hopes and fears quite different from ours, but nevertheless recognizable, just as human as ours are. In encountering the past, we decenter ourselves, if only, inevitably, to resume center stage again. But now perhaps with a better understanding.
I am aware that arguing for the books of the past is a hard sell. But I want to suggest that you can’t understand the place and time you’re in through immersion; the opposite is true. You have to step out and away and back and forward, and you have to do it regularly. Then you come back to the here and now, and say: Ah. That’s how it is.
You can read the whole article HERE.