The absence of reading leads to a loss of inner life

Ann-Sophie Barwich
3 min readMar 2, 2024

In a world populated with overtly unique individuals, I often feel a sense of solitude. And so I have buried myself in the thoughts and stories of the past, in old philosophical and scientific ideas, in fictional books that allow your mind to grow further towards a cultural lineage of humanity as its lifeline.

I was recently reminded of this tangible need and desire for a sense of connectedness to thrive as a self. I visited another place. Suddenly I was thrown into questions, and challenges, curiosity, and mindful dynamics that touched upon my inner longing for more. More life. More speed. More challenges. More widening of the mental sky with other minds.

I had to get out of my mind’s old environment, be thrown into a brief yet buzzing back-and-forth with other curious minds, to find back to myself. My brain finally found itself on. This short but memorable trip made me realize, yet again, how much we need other people’s minds for our own mind not to die in endless stagnation.

Then I came back. And within one week, this rush of blood to the head started to fade. Back at the isolated being in a sea of unique individuals that do not connect. Because no one reads anymore — yes, I truly think a lack of reading lies at the core that separates my experience of these two worlds. The people in one place read. Too many people in the other place ask me why they should bother with reading.

We all connect to a thread of humanity’s history in our own ways. But to perceive this uniqueness in people’s ways is to know these many threads. Extracting information, scanned from texts, does not give you understanding. It also does not let you develop a quality of mind.


Of course, it has. Novalis has said it.

“Es ist nicht das Wissen allein, was uns glücklich macht — es ist die Qualität des Wissens — die subjektive Beschaffenheit des Wissens. Vollkommnes Wissen ist Überzeugung und sie ist es, die uns glücklich macht und befriedigt.”

(It is not knowledge alone that makes us happy — it is the quality of knowledge — the subjective nature of knowledge. Perfect knowledge is belief and it is what makes us happy and satisfied.)

So sure. Extract the meaning. It has been said before in some way. But not like that. A sense of style, and a growing conscience of one’s own style, is the answer to our longing to belong, and our longing to be a self.

We are not born individuals. We are made as individuals. That does not inevitably make us subject to external forces. Because we can become our own self. Being individuals rich in inner life, however, is not something innate, not something given, not something imposed, and not something overly carried towards others as an attitude. It is something grown over time, with individual effort, and grown from cultivation.

That cultivation is deep reading.

Accidental picture, taken while being on the road.