Monday, January 24, 2011

The world of words

One of my friends condemned me for the amount of time I spend reading literary magazines and books. He argued that there is no point in wasting extra time on such unnecessary activities. To him, reading is limited to what you are assigned to study in textbooks. I am currently looking for books to prescribe him—ones that could brainwash his attitude towards the world of words.

Books are not just useful to score grades and earn certificates. That’s not where the true worth of reading is to be found. Of course each career field has one canon of books necessary to exhibit the confidence and authority needed to land a job. But as human beings, we need more information and ideas about cross-disciplinary faculties.

A particular textbook alone cannot serve the universal character of life. Literature pervades every novel discovery and blurs the conventional mind and sensibility. We need not join a school of liberal arts to study the subject; we can always read selected fiction, biographies, plays, poetry and even non-fiction independently. These may contribute to the expansion of our thoughts and actions.

Many people consider leisurely reading a loss of time. But this just seems like an excuse to escape from the world of words. Everyone is busy in his or her own world; it is hard for people to manage extra time to read. But one needs to infuse their routine with reading to turn it into a daily habit. For instance, you can arrange just a couple minutes before or after a meal to flip through the pages of a new book. You can also do a little bit of reading before you take a bath, and then again after. We need to admit our inevitable defeat if we are not adequately equipped with the appropriate knowledge. Prejudice and lack of knowledge do nothing for the everyday affairs of our society and nation. It is through books that we can stay in touch, but also learn about historical ideas and debates. Books are those friends who never betray us. But books do not provide readers with every necessary skill; we should not expect more than their limits and must also gain practical knowledge outside the written text. Pretending that we are full of knowledge after reading a book or two is not only fallacious, but also misleading. 

I conclude here with a story about the limitations of books. A self-proclaimed prophet used to consider himself a know-it-all. He was filled with pride and a sense of superiority. He often treated other individuals with contempt. One day he began to boast of his intellect while on board a boat. Surprised, the ferryman listened to his bellowing with interest. 

Suddenly, a hurricane blew and turned their boat upside-down. The ferryman could save himself because he had swimming skills. But the bookish man died due to the lack of practical knowledge of swimming. This teaches us not to be pompous about bookish intellect. Books are a means of wisdom and should be valued, but they are not all that you need. So enjoy your time reading books, but avoid pride and pretense. Let us surrender to the magnetic world of words.

source: Basanta Basnet, The Kathmandu Post