Sunday, December 12, 2010
People Who Do Not Read
“A book burrows into your life in a very profound way because the experience of reading is not passive.” Erica Jong
There are people who do not read? There are people who do not read! It is not that they cannot read, they just do not read. They exist! I’ve met some. It is strange to me because I love books. I have always dreamt of building myself a vast library of good reading to last a lifetime. Reading a good book is one of the events that make life beautiful.
Literacy is a gift so powerful that it was illegal to teach slaves to read and write. Why? So that the slaves would remain in a state of mental slavery, the basis of submission to physical slavery. Reading, writing, expression and knowledge – these are keys to expanding and freeing the mind, and where the mind goes the body follows. Why is it that tyrants, dictators and oppressors burning books is a theme repeated so often in history? Because reading opens people up to ideas, helps people to experience in their imaginations and emotions a world outside of their own. Freedom of thought and imagination does not suit an oppressor’s intentions.
We live in a fast advancing technological world and there are far more sources of entertainment now than ever before in human history. Stories are beautifully told on film all the time, in a far shorter time than it would take to read the book. Yet Erica Jong poses an excellent point. Whereas we simply sit and take in a film, the act of reading is not passive and that is what gives the book its power. We think while we read. We enter the story with our minds, interpret, create our own mental film to tell the story to ourselves. We are not watching the director’s interpretation of the story – we are developing our own interpretation and directing our own images of the scenes.
I feel pity for people who do not read. It is one thing to not be able to read. It is another thing to not be interested. It is like a treasure in a cardboard box sitting in the middle of the room. There are those who cannot get into the room and therefore they cannot find the treasure. But there are those who live in the room, see the treasure box right in front of them, but simply have no interest in opening the box to enjoy what is inside because the box isn’t flashy. It seems like self-imposed mental slavery. I think maybe they were unfortunate enough to not have discovered any truly good books at a young age, and that is why they have no interest in reading. All I can say is that it is a pity, non-readers are really missing out.
(Photo by Kelene Blake: The bookshelf that started it all...The bookshelf I had growing up.)