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We had had several posts about work-related topics. It is a good time to take fresh air and talk about the lighter yet deeper things in life. Reading is one such activity.
Personally, I started reading story books as a child and then developed a relation with books which continues with life. In fact, it becomes more precious, more valuable and deeper.
I discovered Brain Pickings (https://brainpickings.org) by Maria Popova few years ago. She puts in enormous effort to publish weekly (now twice weekly) newsletter which is a literary roundup of a kind. I would highly recommend subscribing to her newsletter and support her effort. I have mentioned her on couple of previous occasions and shall quote from her again in this two-part blogpost.
Kafka wrote to his childhood friend “A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us”. It is a striking metaphor. It is true to the core and profoundly violent. If a book does not break the ice in our inside, and does not transform us, then either the book does not have enough sharpness and energy, or we are too deeply frozen to be alive.
Maria writes, [quote] “We read for countless reasons and books transform us in countless ways, reckoned and unreckoned. We read the way we love — with our whole selves, with the flickering constellation of values, longings, traumas, joys, hopes, despairs, formative experiences, and half-remembered impressions composing the self. We read with our whole being, but we also read ourselves into being as each book quietly reconfigures the constellation with its cosmogony of ideas and the emotional voyage on which it takes us, so that we emerge from it a different self. That, too, is how love transforms us.” [unquote]
‘Books influence us in so many diverse ways’ is a cliché. However, it is amazing that one book touches the life of so many people in so many different ways. A book begins in the mind and life of an author. I remember reading Nobel Prize Winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel ‘100 Years of Solitude’ many years ago. It is an amazing book. Many year later, he published his autobiography ‘Living to Tell the Tale’ and I realized that much of 100 years was his life story. Marquez is among the class whose writing goes into the lives of millions and influences their thoughts and their lives. ‘Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho is another example from our times, a book that has sold millions of copies in so many languages. Go back and see Rumi and Iqbal and a galaxy of exalted writers. Their writings have inspired generations. Hundreds of scholars have worked to find more meanings into their work. The light continues to spread. This is the power of the book which originates in the mind and life of an author.
Jeanette Winterson is among the finest writers of our time. She says, “The trick is to turn your own life into something that has meaning for people whose experience is nothing like your own. Write what you know is reasonable advice. Read what you don’t know is better advice.”
Our journey through life is mostly a journey into unknown. We are supported by knowledge given by parents, elders, peers, and education, but each one of us traverses on her/his journey alone. Reading ‘becomes a safe vessel from which to explore the uncharted territories of our knowledge and self-knowledge’.
Winterson goes on to say, “Reading is an adventure. Adventures are about unknown. When I started to read seriously, I was excited and comforted all at the same time. Literature is a mix of unfamiliarity and recognition. The situation can take us anywhere – across time and space, the globe, through the lives of people who can never be like us – into the heart of anguish we have never felt – crimes we could not commit. Yet as we travel deeper into the strange world of story, the feeling that we get is of being understood – which is odd when you think about it, because at school, learning is based on whether or not we understand what we are reading. In fact, it is the story (or the poem) that is understanding us. Books read us back to ourselves.”
Reading books in not escape although we may delve into many fantasy worlds. Emerging from those worlds always leaves us more aware.
To be Continued.Disclaimer. Most pictures in this blog are taken from Google Images which does not show anyone’s copyright claim. However, if any such claim is presented, we shall remove the image with suitable regrets.