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To read or not to read, is the question!

Whoever burned the library in Alexandria thousands of years ago should have been punished in hell for slowing the progress of mankind by a thousand years!

If you are reading a book and you are prompted to think just how stupid the writer is, that by itself is learning or profiting from your reading. At least you have discovered that some people should not have been given pen and paper to write books in the first place. But then wait, their time may come.

To profit from reading try to relate things, let your imagination soar into the seventh heaven, sit on the wings of even one word as if it were Pegasus and fly your way into the land of contemplation where one can hear the rustling of the leaves of knowledge and the warbling of the birds of wisdom.

A while back, seated in a bar, I happened to come across a discarded and crumpled cigarette packet signed Rothmans. Since I had nothing special to do, I picked it up and began to read its contents. The company now operating under the British-American joint venture was established in England in 1890, and down below I could read: “smoking causes cancer”. What did I learn from my brief encounter with a cigarette ad? That the weapon of mass destruction had been invented by the two countries more than a century ago and that their joint venture has been massacring people by the millions since 1890! Thank you very much!

Some people do not seem to profit from what they read, or they simply interpret passages the way they want it in order to advance their sordid theories or doctrines. Unfortunately even if people like to read between the lines, they more often than not fail to make intelligent guesses or speculations. Reading between the lines is not for everybody!

And there are those who hate to read books but still like to be seen with them. They want to be known as book lovers or bookworms just for the heck of it.

Siphora liked to carry paperbacks (cheap fiction books) with her wherever s h e went. She did it to show off and pass as an educated girl. She didn’t want people to consider her simply as a girl of base appetites and ignoble motives. She was, according to her own evaluation, a model of the modern educated and independent girl.

One day a friend of mine met her in a snack bar with a book in her hand and asked her if he could borrow it for two days. She agreed and handed it over to him.

“Have you read it?” he asked.

“I am reading it for the second time, it is just superb,” she explained.

When the friend arrived home he opened the book ready for an enjoyable evening read. Alas, he found out to his dismay that some pages were missing. In fact half of the book had been mutilated and he simply could not start reading it. The girl had cheated him. She used the book to meet and entice people of good breed. How abject can you get! Siphora should have had faith in herself without having to depend on books or other external things for security.

There are those who read, not between but off the l i n e s . Once a friend of mine asked me whether the article I wrote in a certain newspaper was meant to disparage women. I told him that I had always been a staunch supporter of women’s rights and if he understood me incorrectly it was his problem. What made that person come up with such twisted remark was that he himself was a misogynist (women hater) and could read in my article only what he wanted to read. He did not read the article, he read his warped mind, and confused it with reading between the lines.

And there was this lady who was invited to a jet-set dinner party along with her husband. It so happened that the group with whom her husband conversed and sipped red wine began to talk about the political development in China, Turkey and Greece. The lady thought it was an easy subject to jump into and thus found herself throwing remarks now and then in the course of the high-flown and highbrow conversation.

Anyway her husband who knew better advised her to stay out of the discussion and told her sternly to simply listen with a feigned interest. But to his horror and dismay she insisted in joining the discussion and began to talk about where she had bought her beautiful set of china, and how she used it to serve her well-cooked turkey, and how she took much care that the grease did not run over and stained her silk tablecloth……. It was her last attendance in similar receptions.

This lady could have kept quiet and could have listened to what the people had to say, learning simply by reading their minds. But foolish as she was, she found it too demeaning to learn from others. In fact, she could have learned a lot by moving around and analyzing people’s attitudes in a reception where food and drink come in plenty and free of charge. The animal instinct seems to come to the fore in such occasions and she could have benefited from the situation and could have written better and more informative article on anthropology without going to the jungles of Borneo.

Still again another person with a searching mind and in similar circumstances could have used such lavish banquets even to philosophize about the nature of man and his attachments to the trappings of worldly life and the emptiness of material wealth.

Tired of books? Then read the world from which you came and with whose dust you will mingle one day.

It is a divine scroll, a universal Torah, left open for every soul to read and learn the mysteries of creation and the riddle of life. Look, watch and observe! Contemplate! Say, God increase my wonderment at your creation! The world is the greatest and the last book we have available from the reading of which we can obtain everlasting wisdom.

But since not everyone is gifted with the ability to read the world, we are lucky to have it already squeezed, encapsulated and bound into books by both learned and unlearned men. So let’s make these our eternal friends and try to read them with insight and intelligence for everlasting gain and profit. In a sense books are and will always be gifts that keep on giving!

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