Wednesday, November 21, 2012
In Gratitude for the Books
And it is at this moment, as understanding dawns, in that magical instant when stapled rectangles of ink-darkened paper become something more; the hitherto strange and alien cipher relinquishes its meaning and innumerable universes open up like petals of a night flower to the immensity of the stars.
The child's world, which has been long embellished with obscure and mysterious symbols, adorning road signs and cereal boxes, becomes something transcendent; and instead of one life, one path (the fate that awaits non-readers) the child becomes an early traveler. Venturing through time and space, learning, absorbing, and wondering; the realization that an immensity of meaningful worlds are encapsulated between the tattered covers of novels. Books are imbued with magic; they contain the transformative power to incite revolution, to sway and influence: a conveyance of alternative perspective, a vehicle of many truths, the physical manifestation of intense thought.
It is my opinion that the truly great writers are indubitably voracious readers; it is in that subtle dynamic interplay between written narrative and sensory reception. A writer's words are exhaled from the page in a delicate mist, a gossamer tendril of another world that envelops the reader in an imaginative cocoon. The voice of the writer is a whisper in our head, transcending time and space, with literary skill that lingers in our imagination like the fading echo of an exquisitely haunting musical phrase. The words hum and resonate with a vibrancy of something alive, shifting and morphing into something greater than the sum of their parts. The simple sequence of letters is cognitively transformed into the imaginative painting which arcs across the inside of our minds.
One forms bonds with paper-born characters, in a fabricated world interwoven with words and threaded together by thoughts. They emerge from the hazy mists of our mental landscape like a hallucinogenic phantasm, more vibrantly alive than one would have thought possible, and with whom we feel and fear, their heartbeat our own. It is a feat born of magic indeed! Taking the geometric linearity of letters, the sharp punctuation of line, the unequivocal rigidity of consensual alphabetic form and evoking an ethereal landscape within the confines of mind; from stark unvarying form to poetic ether. This is the dazzling beauty of language into which the child is ushered.
It is a powerful thing to be a reader. We are presented with numerous gifts of perspective: visualizing the familiar in strange new ways, and broadening our understanding of that which we have little experience. While our bodies are confined and constrained, destined to occupy a limited physical space, our consciousness soars upwards in the vast expanse where all things are possible; the murmured narrative of each new book sighs secrets, discloses thoughts and ideas in the hushed darkness of our minds that we too have entertained. There is a vague recognition of things dimly perceived that only now with this writer, with this book, have been brought into bright relief. One is seized by a thought, captured by an image painted in words, and the connective wisp is established between writer and reader like conversations passed between us in the dark. For we are not merely passive receptacles of the phrase, but we engage with the books that we read, our very selves are altered, our perspective enhanced in a multitude of subtle ways. Victor Hugo declared that "to learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark." To light that flame for a child, to engender and nourish the sparks that will enable their own limitless explorations... what could be a greater gift?