My duct-taped copy of Atlas Shrugged in my blue backpack
I have been carrying around the same blue Lowepro camera backpack since 2012. It has traveled with me to many different places - India, Greece, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, all over the USA, England, Japan, Korea, etc. It has been a solid backpack but it currently holds a sort of emblem of shame: a tattered copy of of Ayn Rand's classic, Atlas Shrugged.
Late last year, I had to go to a Dr.'s appointment and apparently I had brought along this book. A few weeks ago, I was there again for a follow-up visit and the Dr. mentioned that I was reading it the last time I was there. It reminded me that I have been trudging through this novel for quite some time. It is rather lengthy at nearly 1,100 pages with fairly fine print, but that's not really the point. There are a couple of issues that this situation highlights that are worth pointing out:
1. It takes a certain measure of restraint to pull ourselves away from screens, social media, etc., in order to engage in activities that take much more focus but also offer the potential for a deeper level of thought.
2. My focus (and most everyone else's) is very fragmented most of the time. I work a full-time job, am finishing up the edit of a short film, have several other edits backlogged, am trying to write somewhat consistently, am reading at least one other book, just started a company, etc. We don't live simple lives.
3. If we don't keep up with the important things, they fall to the wayside. This is true for so many things: relationships, websites, blogs, companies, and of course, books.
Werner Herzog, in his earlier days
When asked what advice he would give to other filmmakers, one of my favorite directors, Werner Herzog said, "Read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read." I have been an avid reader my whole life and this is a good reminder to make sure that I'm taking the time to do so.
I say that having this copy of Atlas Shrugged in my bag is shameful not because of its content. The novel is well written and contains valid and timely ideas that are worth engaging with. But the shame comes in because I haven't taken the time to finish the book as quickly as I would have liked and at least one other person has noticed. Now, I keep the book in plain view on purpose. It drives me toward a goal that will be satisfying to achieve.
Time to go finish that damn book.