February 21, 2010
What do books mean to me?
Irrelevant as some material may seem, it's still something to read. Why do I read anyway? Today I am writing about what books mean to me. I read because there is relevancy in the words we write as human beings. There is relevancy in the act of expressing ourselves because we are relevant. The book, the paper, the font, and the language used are not the relevant part of the story. Susan Weinstein wrote in an article, "We are English because English isn't about books; it's about us..." It's about our conversations, debates, stories, beliefs, criticisms, poems, loves, losses and joys. Our books reflect our human lives as we see them or can imagine them. Books are relevant to me because people are relevant.
Sometimes insolent is a better word to describe some of the books I read. The author's contempt is so thick it can be cut with a knife. But that comes from somewhere and that author may be coming from a position of fear, anger or a belief in something so strongly that it is expressed with insults and force. Do I have to read this kind of material? No, but sometimes I do and I find it relevant to the human experience. Maybe if I am too shocked or insulted by the writing it is my own insolence that is preventing me from seeing the source of it.
When books, irreverent or praising march before my eyes, they are useful to me. In the case of satire pieces, paying proper respect is not desirable and rather inhibits our sense of humor. I am a big fan of satire because I think we take ourselves too seriously sometimes. I love comic strips because of this. I love reading the Onion newspaper too because they don't hold any idea or person too high to laugh at. And I don't want to take my ideas so seriously that I cannot laugh about them.
Digging into my ideology is a key endeavor for me. Books are like mirrors on what I believe and don't believe. We all form our own ideas about human life around us. Sometimes our ideology is the same as what we are taught by our religions or teachers. But I own my own beliefs because I have systematically built them over my lifetime. When I read a book I get a chance to see what I believe about how things are and how I came to where I am at.
And digging leads to introspection about my life. I am a very reflective person and I meditate on the thoughts presented in books and on my own attitudes. Books are great for bringing attitudes to light so I can look at myself. I definitely feel a certain way and react a certain way to the things I read. I experience emotions like anger, sadness, joy and surprise. Books help me to see what I believe and think about and then examine my beliefs.
All that thinking can be insightful. It can lead to solutions to my perceived or real problems. Especially when I read something that changes my mind. For instance, when I'm struggling with how to approach a problem at work or with the people in my other activities, I find that reading helps me understand and solve my problems. I recently read a book about organizational structure and it helped me understand why the top-down hierarchical model was unsustainable in our type of non-profit organization. This was a change from my normal way of thinking about leadership and decision making. Seeing and understanding why something works the way it does is a key to solving problems.
And there can be such good information available to us in books, coming out of people's real experiences. It would be a shame if the flow of information is somehow turned off, inhibited, directed or restricted. That's one thing that happens in dystopian books like Fahrenheit 451 and 1984. The internet also is a huge source of new and old information. More and more information is being put online with greater access by a broader range of people. And the format of information is changing as I type this. The time it takes new information to get to the masses is decreased to milliseconds instead of months. And this also leads to greater collaboration and better information.
As a result of reading books, my intelligence is greater than it was last year and certainly greater than it was as a child. I credit books with that. I learn a great deal from books. How could I not learn if I continuously read?
Whether a book proves good, bad, or ugly, inspiration can be sparked and I will be on fire. I wrote two novels using bits and pieces of things that I have read. And the material presented in arts and crafts books invariably weaves it's way into my creative new work. I don't believe most of the conspiracy theories I read, such as those in books like the DaVinci Code, by Dan Brown, but that doesn't stop me from being inspired by that book.
After all, my world reflects my vision and my imagination. What I create in life comes out of me. And in every paragraph and step in my life, my eyes give me meaning.That is what books mean to me.
"A room without books is like a body without a soul."
Gilbert K. Chesterton