Someone told me once that he did not read novels because he had little interested in love stories and that he did not read history or art books because he preferred to be a face-to-face spectator of masterpieces by visiting the Louvre in Paris or the Metropolitan in New York.
In short, he was busy living and enjoying life to waste any time with books. And like that person, there is an alarming amount of men and women who claim to read little or nothing, and who think they cannot spend their precious time, plunging into reading.
It is true, reading — good reading — has been relegated to the vestiges of a third necessity activity. Therefore, to read a biography of Degas, a Hemingway’s novel or perhaps a Hobsbawm history book is, according to this foolish conception, an unusable and annoying activity, rather than a stimulating and useful act for the cultivation of ideas, spirit and the very essence of the individual. A luxury that ¨very busy¨ people cannot afford with their work, the visit to the trendy bar or the Sunday football game.
I am glad that those that have the joy of being able to travel the world and from time to time, if the tour allows it, visit a museum. What saddens me is that it is impossible for him to warn that, by giving up the pleasure of reading about the life and work of these great artists, he not only does not know what is at lost, but that he becomes a tourist more than a bulletin of museum, unaware of the hidden gears in the minds that created those masterpieces, and the lines of thought with which they were conceived.
That person ignores that, in the literature, for example, love is only one of the many colors of the luminous spectrum that cover novels, short stories, and poetry.
Literature is substance, memory, a city, the whole cosmos, or just a planet, a beach, a conch, a boat, or just the sea. That is a portrait of human experience and expression and everything that surrounds it.
Deprivation. Without the reading — in general, and without the literature in particular — of history books, novels, travel, poetry, music, scientific dissemination, memories, biographies of musicians or painters, philosophical essays or art history, the human being is relegated to the margins of intellectual and cultural barbarism. He deprives himself of one of the most enriching chores in human history, an unavoidable activity for the integral formation of an educated and free man.
Words support thinking and allow the reader to venture into orbs, times and lives that are not their own and that are incredible not because of their impossible nature, but because of the cognitive leap to the highest point of imagination and knowledge.
Reading is an act that defies time and space and grows to cover everything and everyone. The books allow us to cross the limits imposed by natural laws, to think and speak from the shoulders of giants, to travel to hidden places for years, to witness the battlefield, or to attend the past and also the future.
Division. We are part of an era where the specialization of knowledge became the main driver of economic development, but this fragmentation produced a dire consequence: the fission of culture.
This scenario squanders that common denominator in which we recognize ourselves as human beings and that helps us to coexist, communicate and show solidarity.
This disinterest in reading the walls of a kind of tower of Babel that divides human beings into a myriad of technicians and specialists confined to the particular and the specific of their realms.
Reading instead makes us citizens of a common territory, where words are elementary particles of human experience, which help us to recognize ourselves in others.
Reading good literature is a totalizing act, an exercise of the imagination that through our invention reveals our circumstances, that is, those struggles and dreams that make up the scaffolding that shapes our presence in the world and the very nature of our awareness.
It is necessary then, to spread the cause and habit of reading — especially literature — among the new generations, from the family and in the school, not as an alienated and hateful discipline but as an urgent and fundamental instrument that nurtures intelligence, reason, and happiness.
A world without readers would look a lot like an estranging nightmare dreamed up by Bradbury or Vonnegut.
A house without books is a naked house. A person who reads little or nothing can talk a lot but they will always be words in the wind, and their intellectual horizon will cover the size of a postcard.