Monday, July 27, 2009

They Try to Make Me Go to Readaholics Rehab I Say "No no no!"

Hi my name is Miss Sheeba and I'm a readaholic. From the external observer perhaps who may not share the same passion, it may appear that there is are strong elements of moodiness, insecurity, shyness or social ineptness in one's character. Yet avid readers know that it is anything but.

Ann Donald wrote the article that sparked these thoughts in the Sunday Times Lifestyle. She herself is an obsessive reader and will choose to reading above any other activity. Kindred. I'm often confronted by loved ones displaying a tinge of dismay about my choice to delve into the private world of my own imagination. Where the writer's words are brought to life before my eyes and I am so drawn in that all that I am able to transcend all that exists of me and around me. I elude and leave my body behind and inhabit another world that is new yet familiar in ways in which are entirely relatable. An author, Alain De Botton said this, "The point of reading is at some level to feel less lonely, to feel less isolated with feelings, and also to feel less confused. I think that books have a privileged place in letting us know we're not alone...reading is not just a distraction, it's not just about passing an exam, it's to help you get through the day." Amen. Most cannot stand reading because it smacks off a notion of being distant from others. Yet it is when I am reading that I feel the most connected. It is a paradox yes. An enormous one. But once you fully grasp it, your life is opened to an entirely new dimension of perception. And can be an intense pleasure. The bounds of one's imagination are limitless. Yet images keep our thinking in a box in the shape of television. Reading is a much more powerful and evocative exercise. Those that find reading boring have simply not observed the beauty and potence of their own right brains.

'Elizabeth Costello' by JM Coetzee offered me insight into the way Africans view the act. In essence Africans are community-driven and this spawns somewhat from the oral tradition. Other civilisations have been more book-oriented in their ways of recording history and attaining knowledge. A reader, in this continent, is somewhat of an anomaly, a deviant and therefore someone to hold in slight suspicion because of their silence. Keeping quiet and keeping to oneself are essentially bizarre in most African traditions. Which explains why my loved ones often assume that I am deliberately slighting or ignoring them by engaging in a rather antisocial activity. When in actual fact, my mind (and body) could not be any further from that of what surrounds me. Even that I am not looking for a distraction but rather a heightening of the sense-perception and furthermore an enlightenment. The indescribable and inimitable place my mind can travel to in the act of reading books. It's no wonder the act is so addictive.

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