Loneliness, in moderation, can be a blessing. Everyday for sixty minutes at least, I seek a solitary refuge in reading. Beyond just a hobby, reading is a deeper expression of my self. It inspires me to dream and to never forget that I can make a difference. The world is not just a realm of reason but also a figment of an imagination. At times, my normal life becomes a metaphorical hammer that wants to drive nails in a casket with my imagination entombed in it. I suspect these feelings are not solitary. For a lot of occasional misfits like me, words offer comfort and love like no other instrument in this world. Perhaps, not even humans. I am not describing a delusional darkness. I am describing a regular succor. This article explores three reasons why readers around the world enjoy reading. In doing so, it also provides examples of great books to read.
Of Jibes At Social Gatherings
You overrate my capacity of love. I don’t posess half the warmth of nature you believe me to have. An unprotected childhood in a cold world has beaten gentleness out of me — Thomas Hardy, Far From The Madding Crowd
I am sure no one is born acquiring the age old wisdom that says “if you can’t say something good, don’t say anything at all”. And so it goes, we frequently take jibes at others in order to temporarily feel good about our own life. It is a tempting activity.
“The glass is half empty!”, “you are short”, “you need to do this better!”, blah, blah, another jibe, blah and blah. We have all been there before.
The inner anguish a child faces can be similar to the feeling that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein would have felt if he was living among mortals. I could also imagine Alice in Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland. She disappeared in a rabbit hole that made her feel alive again. Suffice it to say, everyone needs a place they can belong to without putting on any pretenses. Reading, then becomes a refuge for those seeking solace and freedom from judgement.
It is a home away from home. For me, reading was the closest to virtual reality I could get. In fact, it was better than virtual reality. While the VR universe remained static, I could read the same words and conjure different universes in my mind.
If you have watched Steven Spielberg’s movie or read the book “Ready Player One”, you know what I am talking about.
In the permafrost of human condescension, reading was my warm, cosy corner. A refuge from the very same people I grew up with.
When Real Life Heroes Are Hard to Come By
When I was a boy, I always saw myself as a hero in comic books and in movies. I grew up believing this dream-Elvis Presley
Almost everybody’s first heroes are their parents. The older one grows, the more inspiration we need. It could come in the form of great teachers, friends and relatives. However, mythological heroes and comic book heroes have a special place.
Mythological heroes are the roots to your ancestry while superheroes are the wings you can let your imagination fly on.
Around the world, there have been a multitude of works that have inspired me. Notably, the Bhagvad Gita, the worlds longest poem the Mahabharata, The Shahnameh, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey etc. One of my favorite verses from the Bhagvad Gita is:
नैनं छिन्दन्ति शस्त्राणि नैनं दहति पावकः । न चैनं क्लेदयन्त्यापो न शोषयति मारुतः ॥
Translated in English, it means:
Weapons cannot shred the soul, nor can fire burn it. Water cannot wet it, nor can the wind dry it. (Chapter 2, Verse 23)
The Gita is a collection of lessons given by Lord Krishna to his protege Arjun on the battlefield. However, it is much more than that. It is a way of life, a code of conduct and a great teacher. It taught me the importance of ethics or standing up for what’s right irrespective of who’s doing wrong.
Before cable television reached India, I read about every super hero in the DC and Marvel universe I could. From He-Man giving a message at the end of each episode to the capers of Batman and his arch enemy the Joker. The Batman and Joker, to me, were two sides of the same coin. They represented the bright and dark side of humanity and our capacity to stretch in both directions.
Today, as I write about the evolving world of finance and technology, the words of Einstein, Oppenheimer and Richard Feynman inspire me to tell stories that inspire and warn people about the dangers of misusing knowledge.
Heroes come in many forms but the legacy of great minds captured in their words inspired me to pay empathy forward.
The Ultimate Gift
I have often wondered: what if more people took to reading as a means of escaping depression instead of taking opioids for the same reason? I do not know the answer to that question. But, I do know that the warmth I felt when I read about people around the world connected me to them. The books I read helped me live for a higher purpose ie to live for others.
For all those who wander into a jungle of words everyday, there is no hope. You will become a hopeless romantic, explorer, day dreamer or something worse. A human being with an insatiable hunger for knowledge. Even though knowledge comes at a price, I hope that you discover that humanity has more in common than our differences. In doing so, you rediscover the most precious gift of all. A love for your fellow journeymen on planet earth.