Someone I admire–possibly Mae Carden, possibly one of my eighth grade teachers–had a philosophy about reading. She called it (for perhaps this is just how I remember it) the three read principle. It was the idea that it took three times reading a piece to really get the job done right. One to familiarize yourself with it, one to internalize it, and one to understand it. Of course, I was a eighth grade misanthrope at the time, so I just nodded and filed it away under “things that will keep me from the next book”. Looking back now, however, I’ve come to believe it. When I read or watch something, the first time is often like being hit by a train (I shouldn’t make light of that, I’m sure that would really be much more painful). “Oh, I recognize that.” “That reminds me of this” “That’s a really great example of XYZ.” And so on. I know I resonate with it and I like that, but it’s difficult to put into words just why I do. Often I find myself identifying philosophic examples on the first read and have no idea why it’s an example. Just that it is one.
That’s where the second run-through helps. I read or watch it and begin to really empathize with the piece. “Oh, so that’s how they’re feeling, and why.” “No wonder they did that, they must have thought this.” “I can understand how they feel, going through that.” I have internalized the story and understated their thought processes–if it’s written well (some media there’s just no helping, it’s that bad). The second read breaks down the process and maps out all the progressions–plot and character–from point A to B.
At this point, the third reading can make sense. I take those connections of character thought process to the drawing board and match them up with philosophy again. “this philosophy states this reasoning, and that’s why they applied that in this situation.” “Character M would like such and so philosopher–they both believe this, based on Character M’s actions.” “Ha, I wonder if they know what philosophy they totally exemplify.” After this third read through, I understand why I liked it so much in the first place. Thank goodness for the subconscious and intuition, though. I don’t know what I’d do if I had to front lobally sort through everything I took in the first time. As it is, sometimes I get halfway through the second reading and realize I was wrong, I don’t actually resonate with the characters or I find fault with their logic.
This is not to say I read or watch or listen to everything three times right away. I’m a great believer in ‘sleeping on it’ metaphorically–sometimes for a good year or two or five. In addition, I’m trying to shorten up the process (because goodness knows I don’t have enough time to take it all in thrice) by taking Rant Notes as I read. That way, if I love it I have all my notes and sources, and I don’t have to watch again before I post. And am I sometimes to lazy to ever pick it up again? Psh, yes. But I always feel more fulfilled when I do give it another go. Read something three times, you’ll be surprised what it can do for you.
Thanks for reading and God Bless,