We can divide the life we spend on earth in many different ways. Educationally there are all the different levels by which we advance. Some may measure their lives spiritually or through their economic successes. In my own life there is only one division: before and after I fell in love with books.
This may seem silly or cliché, but it cannot be expressed enough the importance of the printed word and its affect on humanity. For me, books are the reason for this column. They helped me get through our terrible public school system and create the ideas and words I needed to find my place in the world.
If you were to see my desk right now you would see a plethora of titles and genres. Everything from George Orwell and Stephen King to Marcus Aurelius and Slavoj Zizek. Please do not think I am trying to brag about my high brow book collection. There is also a copy of “Screenwriting for Dummies,” a book full of tales from National Geographic and an old children’s story collection. But these are not even close to grasping the variety of material I read.
Magazines, newspapers, books, journals, essays, blogs and online articles take up the bulk of my time. Of course, the reader could say it is pertinent for anyone who writes for a news publication to read as much as possible. Unfortunately, we live in a world where reading can still be looked down upon in communities. Censorship is still a problem. According to the American Library Association there were 348 challenges to books in the United States in 2010. Many people cite censorship as a way to protect youth from the harmful knowledge of adulthood. Translated this is just a way of keeping young people from developing at their own pace and questioning the world in their own terms. One of my favorite lines by Mark Twain captures this feeling perfectly, “Censorship is telling a man he can’t have a steak just because a baby can’t chew it.”
Everything we know today and have experienced as a modern, industrialized society can in some way be attributed to books. Those once blank pages filled with new knowledge and passed down to generation after generation should leave us in awe of ourselves.
So the next time you are in the library, any library, make sure to complete two tasks. Find a librarian to say thank you to for their hard work and go find a subject you know absolutely nothing about, pull out a book on that subject and educate yourself. That is, after all, what life is all about.
“Books will soon be obsolete in the schools…”- Thomas Edison, 1913.