Close the Shop
Holidays, weekends, long weekends and days off, are meant to be for closing the shop. To pause and turn to creative leisure. To cease the prosecution of success, fortune, power, and information; in general, all those chimeras that, confusedly, we think they will make us happy.
Reading is not an obligation
It is common that for holidays, most people make pantagruelian plans for reading. Or to announce that they will cloister themselves in a reading retirement.
Unconsciously, we submit our fellows to the torture of forced reading. It suffices to glimpse at Facebook in any given day, especially during the weekend or holidays, to prove my point. It is full of wise advice: you should read to increase your intelligence, you are a brute, in process of increasing your "rudeness" if you do not read. Lists of books and recommendations of readings are posted. All of that repeatedly expressed in a thousand ways. It is a horror!
But not only on holidays, at all times, in homes and schools, children and teenagers, are directed to read works that their parents and professors perhaps merely know by reference; who, in the best of cases, have seen their covers.
All these reminds me when, being a teenager in Veracruz, my friends boasted their "Don Juan" conquests of the most attractive girls. I heard them brag and felt overwhelmed for not being a Casanova, as they purported to be.
However, looking back, I realize that I have always been in good feminen company, so much that I thank God for it. One thing for sure though, as in novels: one at a time and absorbed by her. It is the only way to establish a relationship: with the girlfriend, the wife or the novel. Byy knowing, re-reading, and turning it or her into part of my life: be girlfriend, wife or novel.
With time, I realized it was all bluff. That my friends did not have so many girlfriends, nor that those who bragged of being readers actually read all they proclaimed. When I was on the first year of the school of law, I had a friend that took pride of himself as very learned and read; I was impressed by him until one day I told him I was reading Victor Hugo "Les Miserables". He answered with disdain that he did not read children's novels; as it is casually said: ––He stripped himself. I cannot image a child reading Victor Hugo.
Neither Bad, nor Good
Both, to my fortune and my disgrace, I was born with a crazy gene of reading. Since I learned to read, as much as today many people delve into the screens of their phones, tablet or computer, I immersed myself into any page I had in front of me. Both customs are a good way of escaping; from life and from oneself. To read, paint or draw, in paper or in tablet, are all excellent meditation exercises.
Evasion from reading, or from the little screen, can be good, bad or so so. But each one is as it is and with effort can achieve good progress; although some, without noticing it, only manage to get worse. At the end, as the Greek apothegm say: “nothing in excess"; and much better if done with good taste and elegance.
The habit of reading, and its contrary of not reading, what one should read, how to read and other related matters have concerned me throughout my life. I have acquired certain notions that, as the medical opinion on the ill effects of eggs and coffee, are subject to unexpected changes. Here are some of them.
There are some who do not read anything at all, or very little. However, that does not mean that they are a bunch of idiots. I have known many individuals with very high, wise, and good values. They are very solid in their culture; they are simple and generous.
Some of them even acquire universal and lasting fame. Socrates was one of them; I do not remember having seen any reference to his readings. I don`t think he had the time to read. He spent most time in the streets, the gymnasium, or at the house of whoever invited him to drink or eat. He would argue all day long about whatever with whomever; I imagine some avoided him as the plague. He commented he tried to leave his house as early as possible, because he could not stand his wife; his home was not a reading sanctuary. He did not have a cellphone or tablet.
To chose is to renounce
I doubt of the existence, present, past or future, of someone who has read all the great works. I imagine him to be unfocussed and, most probably, rather silly. But I do know many whom, at the mere mention of any book, automatically comment on it.
Great works are preferable; much better than the last month, or week, bestsellers or in fashion. Indeed, classics are the "best sellers" of all times. Among them are the Quixote, the works of Shakespeare and many others.
To choose is to renounce. Jean Guitton, a French intellectual I admire, recommends not reading first editions, for who would remember the successes of ten years ago? If a book holds three or four years of editions that is an indication that the book expresses human values that are not transitory; it would be worthwhile to consider it. However, I am frequently defeated by the temptation of reading fresh things. But selected with caution; it depends on the author or commentary; and its source. In this, as in everything, nothing as being flexible.
Read to Much, But not to Many
True readers savor the works, they not swallow them in one sitting. When we re-read a book that is worth it, we enjoy nice surprises. That way we turn these books into our companions; and as to our girlfriend, companion or wife, nothing better than being loyal. Balmes recommends reading a lot, bot not reading many.
One reads with different purposes. To enjoy, to increase culture, to learn or develop a profession, work or purpose, etcetera. The worst of all readings is the one made to brag; even when it sometimes leaves results.
The best readings are those made for the sake of pleasure. The best book, the one chooses.
Of course that the more selected the novel, short history or work, the better. To read a poster or a hot best seller is not as enriching as reading Tolstoy’s "War and Peace". I love Socrates repeated saying, deep in meaning: "— beauty is difficult". Somerset Maugham commented that he preferred to be bored reading Proust’s "In Search of Lost Time", than to have fun with a fashion novel, romance or adventure.
There are clasics that are particularly enriching if one immerses in them. This is difficult nowadays when there are so many offers and the list of pending book incessantly increases; you shall resist the temptation. For example, this year I have spent several months in rereading In Search of Lost Time. Strong force of will is needed for not make a parenthesis and read another novel; but I don't regret it.
Inch by Inch
Training is needed. Body builders recommend starting with walking sessions of five to ten minutes that gradually increase. With patience and persistence is possible to run marathons. There is nothing like starting with light readings. There are the classic ones, "The Count of Monte Cristo", "The Three Musketeers" and others from Dumas, Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island", and the works of Salgari. There are many. All of them excellent and very amusing for children and adults. They are irresistible. There are also contemporary ones.
Art of Seduction
The best way to disincentive reading is to make it compulsory. Especially for children and young people. The best stimulants are the example, a warm environment and conversation. We used to read a tale to our children before they went to bed. Curiously, now that they are adults not all read the same and with the same intensity.
To impose or prohibit readings is equally pernicious.
The good news is that we all are different and not all of us need to read.
Entradas relacionadas con esta entrada. Gaby, ponerlas con sus títulos en inglés.
Holidays and the Tortures of Reading 28, july,2014 http://bit.ly/1pm33in
Vacations. Revolt Reading Bureau 4, August,2014 http://bit.ly/1o6n8uZ