The Reading Rebellion

We all have fantasies. And I believe if we take them not just on face-value, but identify the underlying need that they indicate, we learn much about us and how to take care of ourselves. So my recurrent fantasy these days is.. to curl up on my sofa by the window with a book in hand. How wild is that!

While the sheer mundaneness of that would scream out, “Just go ahead and do it, will you, without making a fuss about it,” I find instead that I am fascinated.

Because, you see, the history.

I was never an avid reader. (An intense reader, yes- I would carry the books I read during childhood/ young adulthood as thought bubbles around my head for weeks and months- but not an avid reader.) While that was hardly a deliberate choice at the time, I do disagree with the notion that all children/ young adults must read books/classics to learn something about life, or to ‘grow’ in some way. There are many ways to learn about life, and perhaps the most effective one is to, well, live. Do you learn more about human emotions from a classic romance than from actually nursing a broken heart- your own, or a dear friend’s? Do you learn more about human nature from thrillers and mysteries than you do from working at close quarters with others in competitive situations?

Not for a moment am I trying to undermine the importance of books- however the pressure that people sometimes experience to be well-read, especially younger people, is often unnecessary. One should read if it gives them joy, rather than some fixed idea of ‘learnedness’. The important thing is to learn and grow- and not a particular mode of learning and growing. Experiences are important. Relationships are important. Reflections are important. My drug of choice were conversations.. long, winding ones..

So coming back to my fantasy. Clearly, given my thought process, the fantasy has little to do with learning. Then what does it have to do with? As I get past the fleeting visual, and start to soak into the feeling of it, it starts to become clear.

When you are an adult, picking up a book and curling up in a corner, says: I have the time for this. I have hours spreading before me when I need to be nowhere and need to be doing nothing. I have earned hours of precious guilt-free time where I can proudly execute a plan to be completely self-indulgent. I must have arrived in life-for I have the most precious of all things- time.

When you live in the age of social media, fast bytes and rapid change, curling up in a corner with a book, says: I will set the pace. My pace, world, not yours- thank you. No moving images, self-playing videos, demands of efficiency- faster/cheaper/better, instant responses, 24×7 emails, 24×7 news, raging politicians, even more raging tweets. Nope. Just one word gently rolling onto another… a sentence… eventually a page…somewhere it will all come together, not right now, but it will. My imagination, my mental canvas, my voice in my head pronouncing each word.

So you see, in a fast-spinning world, curling up with a book is a way of taking control.

When you live in times of instant gratification, and ‘consumer-is-king’, curling up with a book is also a way of relinquishing control. You entrust yourself to the author- they lead you into their world over hours and days, and you move forward in faith. It is self-dissolving, it is meditative. It is one of the few areas where you can safely relinquish control. When it is no more cool to relinquish anything.

So you see, an adult curling up with a book is an unobtrusive, silent and non-violent rebellion of the times.



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