There are times I wish I could emblazon these words everywhere I look.
Reading is one of the greatest miracles in life. How is it that we can visualize the thoughts of someone else and assimilate them through no physical effort on our part other than looking at them with our eyes, and by that process we acquire whatever knowledge or wisdom, or indeed whatever malice or idiocy another possessed.
The idea that by observing scratching on a paper I can transfer information to my brain, and thence to my limbs, and transform the world around me — well, it’s really miraculous.
There are no limits to where I can travel if I can read. There are no limits to what I can do if I can read. I have no idea whether the words in that quotation are really Theodore Roosevelt’s words — but they certainly seem as if they might have come from his lips, adventurous oversized character that he was. But we needn’t all be such extravagant personalities in order to acquire the benefits of reading. Anyone can.
It’s sad that society often places greater emphasis upon learning how to test well, rather than learning how to LEARN well. There is such a huge difference between going to school and being able to show at the end of the term that you are able to pass a test on the information you were supposed to acquire and being able to utilize the information from that term’s instructions five years later, or ten years later, or fifty years later.
I had an experience this week where I had a small mathematical problem to solve. I opened my mental filing cabinet and pulled out the formula I’ve used many times in the last 50+ years since taking first year algebra and solved my problem in two shakes. By contrast I regularly hear people complaining about their education and pompously declaring that they haven’t used anything they learned in high school math since the day they attended class. I have no doubt that such can happen. But I have to wonder how people like that get through life without ever recognizing challenges in life that would be solvable by using a little high school math, or civics, or English, or history. The idea that one can go through life and not recognize that
- a problem exists
- there is a possible solution
- you can figure out the solution yourself
seems to be a fundamental aspect of life. But we live in a world where no one seems to want responsiblity for anything, and it’s much easier to have someone else do it, than to try to do that thing yourself.
I know not everyone is plagued with this problem. And I know that some people do the same thing I did and they don’t talk about it, or they do it a different way — after all there can be a myriad of ways to solve any problem. I’m not saying that just because someone doesn’t approach a problem the same way I do they are dumb. Not at all. But it is manifest that a bunch of folks choose to avoid doing so.
Reading is one route to so many solutions. In fiction we learn about people who face difficulties, dangerous, problems and who overcome them. We learn confidence and about the possibility that we are more capable than we once thought. In non-fiction we get ideas about how other people do things — we find that not every problem has to be solved the same way — we find inspiration to attempt new solutions, to try new ways, to take a different route. We also learn about the tools that are available, in case we’ve never used them before. And we learn how to communicate our successes and our failures using words, and how to pass on our experience to others. We invest our life into the words we write, and others invest their lives into us. In a way, reading someone else’s words is like bringing them back to life even if they have been dead for 1,000 years. And when we write or lend our image to a photo, we invest those words, or that image with the possibility to inspire humans 1,000 years into the future. One picture may be worth 1000 words, but one sentence may live 1,000 years.
Yup. I am part of everything I have ever read.
Everything I have ever read is part of me.
It’s a wonderful circle, the circle of life, the circle of knowledge, the circle in which life, and experience, and knowledge are passed from one person to another with no transfer of power, no exertion, no muscles — by doing nothing more than observing words on a page.
Seems pretty miraculous to me.
Today’s miraculous post was in lieu of a patriotic one. Lately this nation hasn’t been doing much to live up to the ideals that found expression in it’s founding, so maybe celebrating the nation at a time when the nation is in such dire straits is not appropriate.