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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Growing Up Philistine...

Alberto Manguel's book has awakened in me feelings that had been dormant for quite a while. I grew up in a household where books were not a priority. We had an encyclopedia and that was about it. The reason I am bringing this up is to explain why I started reading so late in my life. I don't blame my parents for the lack of initiative to promote education; they were a product of the Depression, when reading was a luxury not many could afford. It's a sad fact, but it is true. What really brought me to the "life of the mind" was music. I listened to music constantly when I was growing up. One day I felt music the way many people feel religion: a spiritual awakening. I decided to teach myself to read music and eventually picked the cello as my instrument. Knowing Beethoven, Mozart, Bach and the rest opened up for me the world of intellectual pursuit. After that, philosophy, literature, history, science came easy to me, almost naturally. I knew my life had changed, but never imagined that it was going to draw such a barrier between my parents and myself.

Reading eventually caught up with me, and when it did it enveloped me completely revealing a new me, a part of my spirit I had never known before. The first two books that did me in as a reader were Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment" and Garcia Marquez' "One Hundred Years of Solitude." I read them both in Japan during the summer of 1994. I traveled constantly between Osaka and Hikone and read mostly on the train. One night coming back from Osaka I was enthralled in my reading that I passed my station and realized it nearly an hour and a half later. That, I have been told, is a real reading experience, when everything else evaporates and nothing is left but the word on the page and in the mind. Manguel states in his book: "Maybe this is why we read, and why in moments of darkness we return to books: to find words for what we already know but can't describe." I know that I will never stop reading. For the rest of my life I intend to learn more, to love more and more the written word. I think this is the reason why Manguel's book has been so instrumental in awakening these feelings. I love the subtitle of the book: "A Passionate Reader's Reflections on a Year of Books." It is still January... how many more treasures to discover. The beginning of the year is like the beginning of life, tabula rasa and away we go to enjoy our books and learn more! We are more blessed than we can estimate in the limit of our minds.

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