On Reading

Written and Illustrated by John Daciuk
On Reading

What is to be done with free time around the house? This is actually a big decision; so let’s discuss the heavy weight contenders.

Sometimes, when I’m feeling frustrated, I tend to create dichotomies that may not really exist and make statements like this one: There are two kinds of people in this world. Both types are roaming the streets in disguise… until of course they get a bit of free time. Then, the groups distinguish themselves like the businessmen and party animals of downtown Manhattan. I am referring to those among us who read and those who watch television. I’m not talking about people who read signs on the road; I’m talking about people who can’t wait to get home and start flipping pages.

The watchers seem content living in a deterministic universe. They hold three to five controllers, but are they really controlling anything? What is on is what they must watch. Readers seem to have a similar restriction; what is printed is what they must read albeit readers manage to rightfully claim freewill with the magnitude of their choices. Numbers of books alone have been skyrocketing for centuries. Readers chuckle at the fact that a TV watcher’s channels are summed up in the hundreds at best. There is virtually no limit to the amount of material a reader can get his or her hands on.

The ocean of books allows one to find anything imaginable that they would want to read. With so many books and so little time, though, a reader has to make sure that every individual pick is right for them. This can cause complications for the unwary but often leads to a productive search for meaning. The search for books is an art form in itself with no possibility of perfection. Often, those who fail to realize the magnificent potential of the search also fail to see the beauty in reading.

One of the most incredible aspects of the book is the lack of technology involved. No matter how much Amazon.com tries, they are fighting an uphill battle in attempting to out-date the book. The cultural phenomenon of reading started to gain a foothold around 5,000 B.C. as a tool for keeping political records. Today, it survives as one of the best sources of entertainment and knowledge known to man; it is the power of symbols harnessed.

The printing press was altering world history in the 16th century, yet it is still a fascinating quirk that something so powerful and so old did not gain popularity among the masses until the 20th century. This is because reading does not come naturally. Instead, diligent effort is required to reap its rewards.

Through out the majority of the Common Era, the onus has been on the state to put forth the effort to get people reading. States slouched to the occasion due to a lack of ability or a lack of desire for equity. Today, people (many supposed educators as well), do not read themselves because it is not as convenient as the alternatives.

Anyhow, is it not extraordinary that we can read books from different time periods? This is actually a relatively new option. You can actually sit in nature with a book from the 19th century and have a similar train of complex thought as a person from that time period. What could be even more startling would be reading a book from the 2nd century, if we could only fully open ourselves up to the experience, if we could only let the ocean take us out.

It is often claimed that a picture is worth a thousand words, but the television begs us to reconsider this statement. In one minute of television watching, it is routine to see 1,800 pictures. Are all these pictures really worth more than a brilliant 500-word essay or a gripping short story? Would it help matters if we made the test fairer by muting the television? What if we really did take one frame from a television and pitted it against 1,000 words? I have read 20 word descriptions of scenes in fiction books that have put images into my mind with a vividness that no camera could ever match. All it takes is some imagination, which every human just so happens to have an inspiring amount of.

You may claim that I have not been fair, after all, are there not terrible books out there? Am I being an idealist by pitting brilliant or gripping passages from books against random television shows? What if we compare the best television show to the best book? Well then, wouldn’t the convenience factor suddenly flip?

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