Reading by the fireplace

It seems there is a movement afoot that encourages people to slow down in order to prepare and eat real food in delicious ways, to enjoy the process as well as the health benefits. It’s called the slow-food movement because it acknowledges the fact that such healthy eating usually requires more time than grabbing processed fast food. Yet those who have joined the movement feel it is time well spent.

Such a concept might be applied to our reading habits too.

“Maybe we need a slow-language movement like the slow-food movement that would encourage us to ‘cook’ and ‘eat’ and ‘digest’ the sentences we share with one another.”

The above quote is from a book I’ve been reading a little at a time and pondering, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre. (Many thanks to Liz Cottrill of Living Books Library, who recommended it.) The author suggests a tantalizing idea: that we model good literary eating habits. More specifically, “that we savor and linger over words; that we taste with delight and take in slowly.”

Charlotte Mason would concur.

“It is a sad fact that we are losing our joy in literary form. We are in such haste to be instructed by facts or titillated by theories, that we have no leisure to linger over the mere putting of a thought” (Vol. 2, p. 263).

In this world of random blog posts, concise infographics, abbreviated status updates, and instant comments, it is quite possible to find ourselves dieting on a regular supply of literary fast food. If we’re not careful, we can lose our desire for and delight in words fitly spoken and carefully crafted.

We tell ourselves that we don’t have the time required to sit down and savor words slowly.

“But this is our error, for words are mighty both to delight and to inspire” (Vol. 2, p. 263).

Such delight and inspiration is accessible, but it requires two things. First, that we affirm in our hearts that “words are beautiful in themselves, that they are a source of pleasure, and are worthy of our honour” (Vol. 1, p. 227). Second, that we demonstrate that place of honor by taking the time to linger over and savor words—both as we read and as we write.

Yes, it might be interesting to start a slow-language movement that encourages people to take their time with words, enjoying their delightful flavors and fully digesting their ideas. But then, again, I think Charlotte Mason already started that movement many years ago.