A lifetime worth reading

What can reading do for you? Picking up a book used to feel like a drag to me. I was, and probably still am, a bit of a lazy reader. To this, one could say “hey, how about reading better books?”.

I find that it’s more about the right book. At the right time and place, really any book can find a way to unfold its magic and fascinate the reader in individual ways the next might not comprehend or relate to. An old German book did it for me. Its title roughly translates to “Reading serves as water in the desert” and was dedicated to “Ursula und Ingeborg” (again, an old German book). The book discovers the manifold benefits of reading throughout our lifetime and how this act develops our being over the ages.

For me, it was exactly the right book at the right time and made me realize that despite all differences in genre, all books share at least one powerful commonality: reading is learning; about things on the inside and about those outside of yourself. Books fire impulses to our brain. They’re written workouts to get the thoughts going. From pulp mags to poetic prose, from biographies to books on Botanics. They’re distilled knowledge, focused juice for the mind. Made to learn, entertain, and to break the occasional mundanity. Books are a fun treadmill to exercise our creativity with. An open playing field for letting out all the A-League stories our brains can muster. Reading is a mystery vacation to wherever the next sentence might lead you.

Words, combined by the author, are the code to fire up our creativity, and the many languages in which we read add the nuance of flavor, the culture, for the manner in which we perceive what has been written. And sometimes those words touch our soul. We connect through words. Reader and writer. Books address mental needs, the itches of the intellect. Books put us in a state of attention which allows us to learn and draw conclusions from what we just read. They challenge us to filter and process their code. It’s thanks to the ideas in the writer’s mind that we get to share his thoughts and thereby hone our intellect with fresh input. Thus it seems as if books make three things happen.

Reading is entertainment

Welcome to the movies for the mind. Through the work of our brain, those cryptic letters suddenly form complete sentences, paragraphs and grow into complex stories, ready to embrace us and to take us into their world. They offer an intellectual excuse to take a mental break and a fair argument not to care about all that other crap we can’t be bothered with as we turn the pages. Give me space, I’m reading here!

Every story needs a raconteur, the one who tells it. This engineer of words catches thoughts and notions to bundle them up into a mental ride ready to be injected into our brains. From wherever they might stem (there are many takes on their origin), those wild and often intoxicated ideas from the mind of the writer jump over to the one of the reader to be unpacked and enjoyed like presents. It’s really a bit of magic coming together.

Reading educates

It’s the only thing which lets us learn all by ourselves and at our own pace. No classroom, no teacher, no recess. No exams. No scolding. No bullies. Reading is the essence of learning and crucial to pass on knowledge for the survival and security of the next generation. What you read will be processed and served ready to be passed on to the next human to enrich their life. Reading lets us combine our factual knowledge and grow smarter together.

Books bolster not only the amount of “things we know”, but our emotions as well. The act of retreating with a book can bring forth real emotional as well as bodily reactions outside of the confines of the book itself and serve as a sort of intensive meditation. A story that saddens us leads to a very real tear on a page and leaves us with thoughts long after we finished reading. The story might be over, but its intent and effects stay with us. This is learning.

Reading is reflecting

Books let you read yourself more easily. Your personal lifetime of reading is your development exemplified by itself. From the books of your youth to the ones you are reading right now, to the ones you will read. Pay attention to the reading you have done over the years and notice how your reading helps you grow and prosper through dedication over time. The aspect of time lets you relive and recall earlier feelings of youth, nostalgia and bring forth memories connected to your past reading. This explains why children’s books remain relevant throughout all generations and why reading to a child involves reading the story to the inner child, housed in our own adult body, as well. Books exemplify our mental growth throughout the ages with every line we ingest.

In that spirit: what are you reading today and what will you have learned by tomorrow?