Those of you who follow me on Facebook will know my tagline “Love To Read”. I didn't just put it there to sell my books and journals! No, it's actually great advice for all of us. If we can learn to enjoy things that are good for us then it's win win. Many of us have probably been put off reading books and literature by school. It isn't the best environment in a lot of cases and all the joy of a subject can easily be sapped away. Rediscovering reading is something that bloggers like myself all want people to do. If you like short snappy reads like the ones on Alternative Fruit, then it's a gateway into broader and longer works. Some writers produce lengthy essays full of quotes, circumstantial facts, and varied opinions. These in depth pieces help us to gain a much deeper understanding however can also become cumbersome and over-involved. For me, in my journalism, I am continually thinking of the “so what?” rule. Do we care? That's why I usually stick to a concise style.
Of course, the logical step up from reading journalism is to reading books. It's amazing how many there are, new ones come out each day in their hundreds maybe even thousands. Visit Smashwords and you'll find their list of literature is constantly being added to by indie authors. Go to Kindle and you'll find practically the same. Then with major publishing houses and all their works, we're spoiled for choice in today's society. So, the opportunity is there, we're all able to find something worth reading if we actively seek it, just like you are doing now on this article.
Why is it good for us though? It's entertaining when we enjoy it, but what else is there? If you need any more temptation, here it is.
Mental Exercise – Yes, much like the muscles, the brain gets fit and unfit depending on how much we use it. We have to apply our mind to things in conscious ways to truly give our grey matter a decent work out and a book or blog is the ideal option here. There's no chance of autopilot when we're concentrating on something that always changes like the words in a sentence.
Improved Sleep – Reading before bedtime isn't just a tradition, we do it because it helps us to rest and relax. It gives us something non-vital to think about while we drift off and keeps us from rethinking the same routine from the daytime. This only works with paper though, as the light from screens tricks our mind into thinking it's day.
Better Brain Function – Reading helps our brain to develop in areas such as language, symbolism, and communication. By not only extending our vocabulary with more words to use, we learn new ways of saying things and perspectives on general life issues that could actually benefit our mind. The associations we learn from reading can often be applied to other things in our own lives.
Social Understanding – A writer's insight into social situations can be extremely rewarding to read. Sometimes we need to be told a story about a person who does a thing in order to look at ourselves in the way others do. We can also learn about possible behaviours people we know have and read about how fictional characters deal with it and what happens. If it's in detail in a book then it likely has a root in reality somewhere.
Better Memory – The reading process involves memory as we need to know what happened previously to understand the plot. The more of the story we read, the more we need to remember in the chain of events. New characters open dimensions of the universe that we have to make note of and keep in mind for what happens next. All this greatly improves what we remember in everyday life.
Educational – If we like to learn, and I hope we all do, then reading non-fiction is very rewarding. For me, reading about blogging and making effective websites is really helpful and I do it a lot. As a writer, I like to read books about writing as to continually improve my service to you. That whole process is rewarding as it allows me to make a better product which improves my career. Try to make room for a book about your subject and you'll find even revisiting the basics can be really beneficial.
And Relax – It's shown to reduce stress when we reading something that's not scary or dramatic. Of course if we read a book about war or monsters we'll go through the emotions presented to us, but in general, reading lowers adrenaline and cortisol. It takes our mind away from the things that worry us and get on our nerves and focusses our attention on something far away from it all.
Browse rare and unusual books, what will you find this time?
When it's sunny outside, it's always great to get out and about. Going for a nice long walk might be a welcome activity for many of us, however with children in tow, sometimes it can get a bit boring for them. Also, when they're at school, teachers may want to extend the walls of their classroom to the local park or public field and make a day of it. Even for adults, if we are the kind of person who wants to be productive, even in our time off, finding something to do while on a nature walk could be vital. There are lots of great ideas out there, and here are a few of my favourites.
Make A Map: It doesn't have to be excellent, just have a go. Try to get things in the right place and draw them in. This helps us to learn geography skills which could help us if we're ever lost. It helps us to pay attention to our surroundings and to be mindful of where we are in relation to them.
Paint The Scene: Obvious I know, but how many times have you actually gone outside and painted something? If you're like me, not nearly enough. Go and take the opportunity when you can. This activity helps us learn art skills, and also co-ordination and observation. These all help us in daily life.
Seed Planting: We know that trees are being cut down too fast and if we're not careful from now on, we could lose a lot of natural diversity and beauty. So many medicines and remedies are based on naturally occurring ingredients. If we don't sustain our diversity we stand to lose a huge stockpile of undiscovered chemistry. Where ever you live, if you are in public green space that already has trees in it, then go ahead and plant more. Make sure they're naturally occurring ones and that you mix them up. Planting flowers can take place anywhere as long as the land is free to use. Woods, fields, footpaths, verges, anywhere that flowers naturally grow. We're only doing what the plants do naturally.
Explore The Soil: With a simple magnifying glass, we can take a look under rocks and in loose soil to find all manner of weird and wonderful organisms. These may be far too small to usually see. If we have a stronger lens then use it. Make notes and draw pictures of what you find.
Leaf Hunting: How many types can you find? Can you name them? Who can find the most? This helps us to learn about the environment around us and to appreciate diversity.
Build a Shelter: Engineering games are really exciting. Finding the bits and bobs that fit the purpose and putting them together is tricky fun. It might not be good enough to sleep in first time around, but perhaps it makes a nice shade. The more you try it, the better they will become.
Make Stepping Stones: If there's a river nearby that's not dangerous then building a walkway over it with stones helps us fit pieces together. It also lasts for a long time and helps other people. Hunting for the right size rocks is entertaining, carrying them across is good exercise.
Look For Maths: Repeating patterns and mathematical relationships are all over nature. Point them out and see if others can find any too. Fractals and ratios are found everywhere. Even counting petals is a maths observation.
Make Nature Art: Build something from sticks and stones. Decorate it with all kinds of things you might find laying around. Make sure everything is natural and already on the ground. It's best to not pick flowers and leaves when they're alive.
Hopefully that will keep everyone busy and entertained throughout the summer months. There are of course many books that are rammed with even more ideas.
Not all of us have the freedom to travel far and wide. In the past, only the lucky ones could experience the great richness and diversity of our great world. As media spread around the planet, magazines, newspapers, television, and radio were able to bring culture to our homes. The themes on these services remained fairly localised and within given boundaries. We had no real choice, the editors chose for us. This was however a big step forward in cultural terms, as it was possible to establish community wide concepts via new and creative ideas sourced from around the world.
As the internet evolved and found its way into more people's homes, the ability to search for and discover things about the world increased. No longer did we have to go and see it for ourselves, or find the right book, the information and images could be delivered to our screens. It's not exactly the same as being there, however with so many exhibits behind rails or glass, is there really that much difference? The feeling of being close to it perhaps doesn't reach the digital realm, but the information and learning we can do remains the same.
There's a lot of internet out there, most of it dismal and boring. Sometimes we find something worth our attention, worth linking to, and talking about. Rather than the latest celebrity clothing outrage or what Donald Trump said this time, the rest of us enjoy experiencing the better side of our beautiful planet. Humans as an expression of nature create many things. We create buildings, cities and countries. We humans create art, music, literature, and performances. Our technology is a natural product of our ability to think and learn, it's a product of our bodies as everything is designed for us to use. All of this expression of our kind is available for us to go and see in person or browse on the web.
The digitisation of our universe, as in putting all of human knowledge and culture into computer format, not only compresses what was once a massive and incomprehensible network of ideas and stories into relatively tiny hard-drives, it makes it instantly available to anyone connected to it. So by shrinking it in one way, we expand it in the other, taking everywhere at once and putting it on a relatively small computer network allows a relatively small person to access everywhere at once. This has correspondence with spiritual practice too, where meditation into self reveals a universe within as a mirror of our own reality.
It's great when entire museums of work go online, because for many of us it's not in our ability to go there in person. Perhaps one day things will change, with hard work and determination many have found financial freedom. As those who stand astride the broken dreams of so many more can freely walk the corridors of this planet, the rest of us can adequately amble the digital world online. I hope Alternative Fruit will serve as a museum once things draw to a close, for those who've read the about section will know, this site is a shrine to the spirit of creativity in the universe.
What's already a museum is the New York Met. I read in Open Culture today that their collection of art books and catalogues stretches over 50000 in number! And, to make it more exciting, they're all online for you to download! This gives me and you a lot to read about. Let's all spend some time with this collection as in truth, there's nothing quite like exploring collections that span for longer than we have been alive. Enjoy.
Rowan Blair Colver for Alternative Fruit
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