The way that we perceive reality is greatly affected by how we read and interpret information and experiences. Birkert's essay, The Owl has Flown, touches on this and how reading has changed over history from the vertical to the horizontal. Vertical being the depth and understanding of the reading and horizontal being the wide spectrum of readings available. Birkert's also discusses how the shift from vertical to horizontal has changed our view of the world and how we paint a picture of the world around us. He also talks of wisdom and how it is not the facts that we know but how we understand them and put them into context. The loss of depth by the abundance of readings available causes us to loose that wisdom or "context" in return for knowing bits of information across a wide variety of subjects. .
Throughout history reading, writing, and even thinking have changed dramatically. This is mostly due to our surroundings and the horizontal shift of information available to us. Birkert's starts out by talking about the history of reading and thinking and the few texts that were available. By 1750's men read intensively with the only few books they had such as the bible and almanac. They would read these books over and over again sometimes in groups with a designated reader, even when these readings had no depth they would create it. This all dramatically changed by 1800 with the invention of the printing press among other things. With the abundance of newspapers, magazines, texts, and advertisements men started to shift the horizontal by reading things once and moving on to the next bit of information. As Birkert's states, "The reader tends to move across the surface, skimming, hastening from one site to the next without allowing the words to resonate."(74) The result is knowing a lot of bits of information without context. .
Wisdom is not the gathering of facts it is the understanding of facts.