Sermon on the mount

Sitting up here high and mighty atop Mt. Palos Verdes, I look down upon you in the South Bay and can say that I am truly worried for your souls.

Not your immortal souls that are going to be consigned to the hell of eternal angel harps and no coffee and a ban on masturbation, or those immortal souls that are going to burn in the other hell where I’m told we will have to watch the Republican candidates debate naked for eternity, no …

I’m worried about your mortal soul. Yes, yours. It’s the one that gets cobbled together by nerves and genes and environment, and then crumbles and dies with the rest of you at an average age of 82.1 for women and 78.3 for men.

Your mortal soul, after about age 12, is fed on and grows by only two things: The books you read and the people you meet. And I’ve concluded that you’re not reading many books these days. This is the only reason any of us could have watched any of the proceedings affiliated with the current presidential campaign. We simply don’t read enough books.

Not just any books. Hard books. Wrinkle-in-your-forehead-forming books. Books with long words, complicated ideas, and page numbers that go up to 600 and beyond. Those books, dear friend, are the only possible salvation for your withering mortal soul, a soul that is slowly drying, cracking, and peeling off like an old scab from the incessant diet of Facegag, Instaham, Netflix, and, yes, insipid little blogs like this one.

There’s a fix, though. It was offered up to me by a 11-year-old. Here it is:

About a year ago I stopped reading. The book on my nightstand, Darwin’s “The Origin of Species,” was so boring, dry, dense, and crammed with tiny print that each attempt to complete it was like the third lap of Boulevard RR in the snow on two flats.

The problem was simple. Even thinking about plodding through that book to the end made me want to never read anything again. Of course I couldn’t throw it away, admit defeat, and move onto “40 Years of Mad Magazine: Anthology.” Nope. I’d paid for it, started it, and put it next to my bed. So I kept it there, lying to myself that I’d finish it one day.

A year passed and that day never arrived. And the problem was that I had a big Rubbermaid storage container out on the balcony filled with books, unread. And I couldn’t open it up and grab a new one until I had evolved through Darwin’s albatross atop my nightstand.

Everything ground to a halt. I even began reading Internet news.

Then one day I was coming back from the Tuttle Creek Road Race with Attila the Hun. We were talking about his precocious daughter, who is twelve. “She writes down in her diary every day that she read 25 pages. That’s her daily book diet. 25 pages a day.”

It was so brilliant! I didn’t have to finish Darwin, or Ulysses, or Gravity’s Rainbow, or any of the other 3,000-lb. books lurking in the rubber tub. All I had to do was read 25 pages a day.

So I did. And the beauty of 25-a-day is that since everything is a multiple of 25, you always know where you left off. After a very short while I’d read all of Darwin, understood a tiny fraction of it, and moved on. Meursault: Contre-Enquete followed, then Le Feu, and finally I mounted Ulysses for the first time in almost thirty years. In 28 days I’ll be done with that, too, and it’s all thanks to a 12-year-old daughter of a bike racer.

We can do this. Your mortal soul is worth it. I’m even thinking about coming up with a new app called “Vellum.” It will have KOB’s (King of the Book) for people who have read the most in a week, and will have KOP’s (King of the Passage) for people who have read a particularly gnarly segment in the least amount of time. I could even have Joe Yule design some loose-fitting reading kits with “Seth Davidson Book Injury Lawyer” emblazoned on the pink smoking jacket lapels, and get FastForward to come up with some full carbon e-Readers that are 100% carbon.

It sounds crazy. It is crazy. But force-feed yourself those 25 pages, starting today. You’ll grow muscles in parts of your brain you never even knew you had.




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50 thoughts on “Sermon on the mount”

  1. Nice piece, Seth. I predict a record low number of responses to today’s blog. Would be surprised if most of your readership makes it past the fourth paragraph; you know, the one where you mention “We simply don’t read enough books.”

  2. Why strain your brain? They make all the good books into movies eventually… And it’s much easier to drink beer while watching than while reading!

  3. Peter Schindler

    Lack of reading is part of the right wing plan for taking over the USA. The less people read, the less educated they are and the more susceptible the public becomes to the lies that politicians throw our way every single day. Defunding education makes for an uneducated public and we are seeing the result of the dumbing down of America. People don’t read because they might be accused of being, gasp, an intellectual snob.

    1. You are 100% right about the link between defunding education and the rise of extremism.

      1. Safe for now, I downloaded on the origin of species for free, I think I last tried to read it 35 years ago.

  4. Seth! Seth! Are you there? Some nerd hacked in to your wordpress account while you were out riding your bike…

    1. Back in control! Bitcoins sent, account recovered. Will delete stupid post now.

  5. It is so true. We do not read enough these days. And I am one of those… I admit it. I am super stoked that my daughter reads a lot though. She loves the only book store still exist here in LA called Barnes and Noble. When we go to the store and she smells the books, her smile on her face is priceless!
    She writes book reports in school… She is using words I have never heard in my life. So often I ask “what is that word my love”? She grabs her iPhone, goes to and looks it up; here you go dad. Learn this word; you welcome.

  6. Ulysses is a piece of cake. It’s only one sentence, right?
    When i was 12, my deranged father (Colonel, US Army) made me read the Odyssey in Greek and then english, page by page…oh god…you made me remember this!

    1. One sentence … Greek poetry … Military father … you have a novel here. And bikes.

  7. I’ve been digging into Jerome K. Jerome over the past few months. With authors like him, 25 pages isn’t the problem: the problem is stopping after 25 pages.

  8. What is this “book” thing you speak of?

    Seriously now, this demise of print on paper is a huge issue. I’ve been reading things on computer screens for 50 years and a computer screen is just not equivalent to a book, a newspaper or a pamphlet. I have not yet managed to read a whole book or peruse an entire newspaper on a computer screen. I don’t know what the answer is, but it sure is disturbing. I may take your suggestion of a daily dose of print. It’s a good one.

  9. My reading glasses are full carbon made with 100% carbon. They make me a faster reader.

    Lend me Ulysses and I will accept the challenge.

    PS Please post the link to the StageOne store for the smoking jacket.

  10. I used to be a voracious reader. Devour books, immerse myself in the print. I love the smell of books. I find that as I get older I have less staying power with them, some of that is EZ distraction with email, FB etc. There’s always a book (or stack) by my bed, but 3 paragraphs in, I’m in snooze land. I need to get into bed sooner to enjoy a page let alone 25. Thanks for the post. We are now a sound bite culture. Give me the “readers digest” version!

  11. Donald speaks to Ted and Marco and Ben and whats his name ……..

    “I know what you’re thinking: “Did he read six books or only five?” Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being this is a brain, the most powerful brain in the world, and would blow your brain clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?” [Apologies to Harry Julian Fink, Rita M. Fink, Dean Riesner, Terrence Malick (uncredited), and John Milius (uncredited).]

    The knowledge in a book …… like food in the stomach makes some humans more compassionate and thoughtful …… and in others …… gives them indigestion and heart burn.

    Long ago, even before Cilff’s Notes, when humans even read poetry, and looked at each other …… rather than ‘the device’ …. the humans had a similar lament …. so many books …. so little time ….

    And though our memories fade …. many of the books are in our heads from reading them in our youth ….. and all that is needed is a ‘light skim’ to recall them and update to our current reference frame of experience.

    I like the 25 page plan for digesting unread difficult material …

    Makes me think of the old saw ….. how do you eat an elephant? ………. one bite at a time ……………………….

  12. I remember when 25 pages of case books a day was a hell of a lot, and that was 30 years ago, when I was much better at coping with my ADD.

    The last book I read was Cycling in the South Bay. 😉


  13. There in lies the problem…. Darwin.
    If anyone can truly stomach that fiction then more wasted brain space to you. Should try something like the “Earth” series by L.Ron Hubbard.

        1. I love it when anti-science idiots conveniently ignore that their lives depend on science.

      1. Matter of Fact, I don’t use any manufactured medicines if I can avoid them, the side effects almost Always worse then the cure.

      2. But, the theme of your post I agree whole heartedly with, I have always had a love for reading, was known by the librarians in my home town very well, had read all the books in the kids section by the time I was 9.
        ( *side effect*- was reading 8th grade literature by then in school, and no problems acing the spelling be compititions.)
        ffwd—– so today, having read several thousands of books in my lifetime… and still read today, any encouragement to help others to read will cause a Positive side effect…. kudos

        1. Sorry! Misunderstood your ironic comment–should have gotten it with the L. Ron Hubbard reference! Thanks for commenting.

  14. I’ve been a book-aholic since I first learned to read. Wish I had avoided computers as those have really wrecked my eyes.
    Yes on Darwin, perhaps even better read is his bio and how he struggled with releasing “Origin” – a fact which gives me endless pleasure to throw back at these morons that insist Darwin was a devil worshipper and fun stuff like that. I’ve had the tome-blockage as well: took me 3 or 4 iterations (i.e. Years) of putting down/picking up “Atlas Shrugged” before I was able to get thru it. I’ve since reread it a few times. Kinda like Steinbeck said about how a good book was like peeling back the layers of an onion. The harder you have to work, the better the workout for that thinky-muscle thing in your skull

    1. Books are still alive, they just need a bit of mouth-to-mouth from time to time.

      1. Damn dude. No wonder your eyes are fo sucking bad!
        You need to put those books down and start watching movies.
        Books are old school.
        Books are the 94% carbon composite steel framed step-cousin to the far superior motion picture and its modern 267% carbon
        fiber matrix. Which I am sure you know is 101% pure unobtanium based carbon weaved angel pubes.

  15. I’ve found some pages more worthy and challenging than others, so I’ve switched to time vs pages… kinda like time in saddle vs miles.

    and, for those wondering how to get your kids… start ’em early by reading to them, and sharing what you yourself are reading.

    PS nice riding today.

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