I have often tried to encourage my children to read. They are boys. They clamber on furniture, roll on rugs, tear into their surroundings secure in the knowledge that the new dawn will have reined in the chaos, cleared the debris they scatter wherever it may fall, with fresh ground for play. I want them to be still for a bit. Sit down, I want to say to them. Sit down and get acquainted with the passing thought, the laughter before it leaves the throat, the sigh before it escapes your lips. Having learned the art of sitting still, you can move.
Are you seated? Now try tucking your legs under, curl into your self, push back the stray locks from your lashes and wipe that upper lip beaded with the telltale residue of honest, rough play. Finish that cocoa and put away the glass skittering under your knocking knees. Adjust the light so it’s not so soft you feel darkness within, not so harsh the letters blaze discordant with the emotions splayed across the page.
Is that a paperback or a hard cover book you have there? Have you formed an opinion about the smell of the ink, the feel of paper between thumb and index finger? Have you decided how you will get to know this new mystery about to unfold? Will you grab it with both hands and devour it, for instance? Or keep it ensconced on your knees or perhaps place it firmly atop the desk so you have control over the page? Do you need a throw, a blanket, a pillow or a cushion to wrap, hold, rest or tuck into your sweet spot before you settle?
You decide. Get comfortable. Then read. Explore new continents, find new friends, understand new languages. Let your heart gallop with the knight brandishing his sword, armor gleaming in the Sun; exult with the hero scaling the peaks. Let it break with the loser, the misfit, the broken and scarred; sigh with the maiden longing and forlorn; let it leap with the infant flung high in the air and weep with the widow distraught, alone.
As a child I read to escape the long arms of dysfunction. As an adult I read to find answers. Who am I? What is my true purpose? Am I simply an accident of shooting spermatozoa or the result of karma?
I bury myself in the study of genetics. If I look like my father and walk like my father will I then become my father? An intellectual giant with the abusive ways of a sociopath? Or being a girl, will I automatically assume the patience of my mother, bending over a table of food, ladling platters of stew to a house full of people oblivious of her loving hand, her vigilant eye? Will I inherit her superior coping mechanisms, her talent for keeping up appearances, (don’t scoff at appearances dear reader, it’s the handy can of Lysol for too much reality) or her innate ability to bury discord with a look?
With knowledge comes understanding. With understanding comes compassion. With compassion comes forgiveness. With forgiveness comes real power. Most Knowledge resides in books.
Finally, I want to tell my children, when you open a book, you open your heart and your mind. For an hour or two or three, you enter the world of words. It is a world without the cacophony of television; without the fake excitement of a video game; without the faceless interactions of social media. It is a sanctuary. Enter this temple with absolute conviction and you will be illumined. You may not feel the way I do as yet. But this I know – you will be better off for your discoveries.