– James says that habits are what make excellence possible.
– What beneficial practices have you been inducted into?
– Who inducted you or how did you acquire your “stable dispositions”?
Reading is a beneficial practice. I suppose my induction into this practice began with my parents. I have early memories of my mother reading my older sister and I bedtime stories. It certainly didn’t end there. There were no shortage of grade school teachers who guided my classmates and I through drills. When I was older, Bible study at church youth activities introduced me to reading for the purpose of group interaction. Thomas Merton wrote that if you can’t put a book down, then you are not reading contemplatively. I read that in high school and I have often since tried to remind myself to be ever-ready to pause when reading—or doing anything. I took a speed reading class; but it didn’t take. College coursework introduced the process of extracting argumentation and implicit assumptions from texts. There was one particular professor who absolutely eviscerated the arguments of a book that several students were fond of; and so I learned the power plays readers can make, not just by reading texts but by readings other people’s readings. I was a bit too taken by his example and have since tried to unlearn the habit of hyper-critical readings that offer nothing more than staking out a position of authority.
Except for the most basic component of the practice, viz. cognition of words on the page, my ability to read has changed no small amount over time. I certainly wouldn’t call it “unstable,” since there appears to be a consistent trend in a relatively positive direction—but I wouldn’t want the “stable” in “stable disposition” to imply stasis.