“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body” ─ texts & tweets?

I was sitting recently at a health clinic waiting for a lecture to begin on the importance of health and exercise. A lady arrived last (and late) and sat down next to me. She was carrying a large blue and black book bag which she plunked on the floor in between our chairs. The inscription on the bag was “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.”

I was wondering if this quotation was a marketing brand of the bookstore named on the other side of her book bag. But I vaguely remembered that this quotation came from an earlier source.

When I returned home, I tracked down the history of this quotation through a Google search. The quotation is attributed to Joseph Addison who lived from 1672 -1719. Addison was a very influential “media” fellow in his time. He wrote for a daily paper called The Spectator. In History Magazine, Jamie Pratt (http://www.history-magazine.com/spectator.html) explains that even though the Spectator was only published for about two years (1711-1713), “it had quite an effect on English society and literature.” Each issue contained a long essay consisting of a ‘sheet-ful of thoughts by a character named Mr. Spectator around a single theme or subject for the benefit of his contemporaries.’ The essays were printed on large (13 by 16 inch) paper. “This turned out to be the right format to appeal to the taste of a relatively new affluent class with an appetite for literature, but without the inclination to read lengthy books on the subjects treated in The Spectator.”

How visionary that 300 years ago ─ when many people were not reading, or were not reading much substantial content ─ that Addison recognized the importance of reading. If Addison were with us today, reading texts on his iPhone and tweets from his friends, I wonder if he would conclude that this reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.

Food for thought. Now pass the cookies …. er, the ‘tweets and texts.’