The first necessity is to claim the morning, which is mine. I don’t look at my phone and I don’t answer emails. I look out of the window, first of all. Then I sit down and have my coffee, the hot liquid waking up my soul. I read or write, depending on how I feel, but I celebrate the early hours just by myself.
If I read, it must be a real book. Nothing fake, nor digital. If I write, I write with a pen on paper, just to remember that I still have fingertips. I like to use a pen that runs out at some point. It reminds me that nothing lasts forever. I like to look at what I have already read and written and think about everything that is still to come. Like this new day.
Reading enables you to mediate if you are not disciplined enough to meditate otherwise.
That’s why people ask me sometimes what should they read. But a prescribed lists of book that you must read? Nah, I don’t buy it all. I am convinced it is all about the bold fact of reading wildly, whatever comes in your hands.
Most people like to do things on the fly now. You cannot read a book on the fly. How fortunate! The busyness itself does not make your life meaningful. It is your interior life that makes the difference.
It’s impossible to read without reflecting. When you read you lose yourself, you are transported to another space. You can fly. But it only works if you slow down to experience it.
That’s why I built a habit out of reading. So that I make sure that I stop and sit still from time to time, that I mediate although I am not disciplined enough to do so otherwise and that I stay sane and connected. Books read us back to ourselves.
Some books are toolkits you take up to fix things, from the most practical to the most mysterious, from your house to your heart, or to make things, from cakes to ships. Some books are wings. Some are horses that run away with you. Some are parties to which you are invited, full of friends who are there even when you have no friends. In some books you meet one remarkable person; in others a whole group or even a culture. Some books are medicine, bitter but clarifying. Some books are puzzles, mazes, tangles, jungles. Some long books are journeys, and at the end you are not the same person you were at the beginning. Some are handheld lights you can shine on almost anything.
And one of the things the story teaches us is this: Read yourself as a fiction as well as a fact. When I was growing in a small town in the South of Poland, which I cannot stand and which remains for me the most colourless and the most hopeless place on the whole terrestrial globe, as a child I never thought my life was narrow or my chances bleak. I thought I was Huck Finn, Alice in Wonderland, Dorothy who met Ozz, Robin Hood and Ane Frank.
The escape into another story reminds us that we too are another story. Not caught, not confined, nor predestined, not only one gender or passion, not only from Eastern Europe.
Later on, when I was moving from one country to another every few months, looking for something exciting, but mostly just looking for myself, I had carried my favourite books around, letting them fill some of the precious space in my one and only suitcase.
Whenever I could, I went to libraries and bookstores, I picked up the words written by Patti Smith and Murakami and I felt warm and safe, at least for a while. I was thinking: How great, how great that those books exist, that I can read them many times, that I can read them always.
I felt understood. It wasn’t a fantasy world or escapism — though it was an escape; it was the hidden door in the blank wall. Open it.
This morning I opened a book and went through.