Kurt Vonnegut In Defense of Reading
Novelist Kurt Vonnegut speaks to the spiritual possibilities inherent in the very act of reading itself:
. . . [B]ack in the 1960s[,] . . . I delivered myself to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, as had the Beatles, to learn how to do transcendental meditation or "TM." . . . My own impression was that TM was a nice little nap, but that not much happened. . . A pink silk scarf might drift slowly by. That was big news down there. You awoke unchanged from a pleasant state between sleep and wakefulness. But I got more from my TM experiment than naps. . . . I realized that I had done the same sort of thing thousands of times before. I had done it while reading books. Since I was eight or so, I had been internalizing the written words of persons who had seen and felt things new to me. . . . The world dropped away when I did it. When I read an absorbing book my pulse and respiration rate slowed down perceptibly, just as though I were doing TM.
I was already a veteran meditator. When I awoke from my Western-style meditation I was often a wiser human being…. Books came into being, surely, as practical schemes for transmitting or storing information, no more romantic in Gutenberg's time than a computer in ours. It so happens though – a wholly unforeseen accident – that the feel and appearance of a book when combined with a literate person in a straight chair can create a spiritual condition of priceless depth and meaning. This form of meditation, an accident, as I say, may be the greatest treasure at the core of our civilization.
- Kurt Vonnegut, Fates Worse Than Death (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1991), pp.187-188