Binging - Good or Bad?

Binge drinking. Binge shopping. Binge eating. All things one should definitely avoid. Binge drinking can lead to all sorts of problems ranging from drunk driving to sexual assault. Binge shopping can lead to a closet full of stuff you just don't need--more pairs of shoes than you could wear in a lifetime, more suits than any single human being ever needs. And binge eating can lead to stomach aches, obesity, heart burn, high blood pressure - the list of ailments is almost unlimited! No, those kinds of binging are clearly troublesome. Indeed they can be the result of specific diseases like alcoholism or compulsive eating disorder--and they can be lethal.


But what about binge reading? And binge watching?

I have always been a binge reader. When I find an author I like, I tend to proceed to read everything he or she has written. It started in high school, when I read The grapes of Wrath, and was enamored with John Steinbeck. I still have many of the paperbacks I bought and read over the next few months, devouring the well-know Steinbeck books, like East of Eden and Of Mice and Men, and also the lesser know works, like The Wayward Bus.

Today, some forty-five years alter, f I find a topic that particularly concerns or interests me, I focus much of my reading on unearthing every volume I can find on the subject. I've shared in this blog before about my current presidential project, reading a biography of every one of our presidents (I'm up to Coolidge, by the way!) What binge reading does for me is it allows me to really immerse myself in a style, or a genre, or a topic, and learn, learn learn!

Binge watching is for me something rather new--all made possible by things like streaming services and my trusty DVR. Last week my wife Linda and I binge watched the remake of Roots that I had recorded when it was broadcast earlier this year. Over three nights we watched the eight hours of Alex Haley's family story. It was, at times, very brutal and graphic, but it was, after all, about slavery. And that is a story that cannot really be told without violence. My mind was reeling after the last episode faded from the screen--but, even as the first version of it which I saw while I was in seminary many years ago did, it gave me a much deeper appreciation of the impact of slavery on the history of our country, and on the daily lives of Americans, especially black Americans, to this very day. I could have watched it piece meal, but the binge watching allowed me to really get caught up in the story. And it was an important way to mark the 4th of July.

So there you have it. My take on binging. Like most words, it has a number of potential uses.


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