Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Reading, Serendipity, and the Brain

I recently made a quick trip to Vail, Colorado, to attend a short conference. The air was brisk, the sun was out, and the quaking aspen trees were in full autumn splendor. But the most fun I had was early one morning before the conference started. I went to the Fitness Room and slid onto a recumbent bike next to Jeanne. I had forgotten my iPod so I felt mentally naked, with no tools for obsessive multitasking, other than watching repetitive news from the TV console hanging on the far wall. What was my mind to do? Jeanne and I started to chat politely and somehow quickly got into books we had read. We zoomed into "have you read. . .?" and covered acres of territory, on the ground and in the sky. We both like fiction and the list of common titles was huge. Then we lingered around the edges, recommending titles discovered by one of us but not the other. Another reader! There is nothing more exhilarating, not even the luminous color of the aspens. The half-hour on the bike flashed by.

Reading doesn't come in as high as interactive games or dancing in studies looking at keeping our brains fit and agile (such as The Bronx Aging Study and many others), coming in at around 35% versus 65-75% reduction of the probability of Alzheimer's or vascular dementia. But I don't care. I love to read. And I love to find someone else who loves to read even more. And I wonder: working those muscles on the bike + interacting with another person + zooming in and out of those connections upstairs to find and talk about all those books. I was cross training, for sure.

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