“Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.”
That quote was said by Margaret Fuller, and is pretty famous for I’d say its short length and rhyme rather than its meaning. The dictionary definition of reading is to look at and comprehend the meaning of (written or printed matter) by mentally interpreting the characters or symbols of which it is composed. Quite technical of a definition I must say, ‘comprehend’, ‘look at’, ‘interpret’ the character and symbols i.e. language composition. Now let’s look at another verb: the dictionary definition of watching is to look at or observe attentively over a period of time. You’ll see why the two parallels are important. So, we read and we watch/observe, the former has rather an identity built upon it and the latter is just laid back because its taken for granted. To give you an example of the identity of reading, you need to look no further than the Instagram and Facebook bios jotting out words like “reader” and “bibliophile.” It’s hilarious to me how the perception of the world towards them that they want must be viewed through the lens of being a “reader” and somehow that’s good.
The title is “the false premise of reading” on purpose. If a person reads only newspapers, the general ones, can that person be called a reader? Technically that wouldn’t be wrong, but it still would be wrong. Referring back to the quote of Fuller, the newspaper reading person won’t become a leader even though he/she is a reader, and even if they do, they wouldn’t be a good one. Congruently anyone who reads anything is a reader, and thus anyone who likes to read books of a particular kind is a bibliophile. But words mean nothing, for that this is a weak identity, a facade to cover-up for the literal lethargy, ignorance, and escapism that one has become accustomed to. If the popular answer to the question “what are some of your favorite books?” is a list of fictional drama, comedy, fantasy and thrill of no real sense, well isn’t the society going on the right path, awesome. As a literature student, one who is obliged to read fiction, I can assure you that there are at max a 100 or so books in the entire world of fiction that are written as an abstraction of worldly concepts and not to gain fame and money. I recommend 1984 all the time, and there’s a reason for it; it wasn’t a fictional book made to entertain but rather to explain the concepts of totalitarianism, tyranny of war ridden politics and “doublespeak” that we so profusely watch in today’s world. I would say that is proper fiction.
I have no problem with fiction, although it might seem as such, it’s the same as having Hollywood the place to observe and watch for most of the world. We could observe documentaries instead, but no, we gotta relax right? The problem arises when the goal of reading becomes just reading. The time we live in isn’t a time where you just pick any book that’s available as people used to back in the days, in our time everything is available, it’s about filtering what you mustn’t read.
There is one interesting thing I’ve noticed in people, the activity of reading for pleasure rather than watching movies is considered better and this gives the person a higher ground of motive to continue the pursuit of entertainment via books. It baffling to me that people from being proud of their region, nation, religion, (regardless of those being right or wrong in their thinking) are now more proud of being recognized with a fictional world’s knowledge and thus fusing it with their entire being, a good example are the “potter heads” or the feeling of being called a “super fan” of shows or other books. If the premise of reading is that reading fiction is better than watching movies, its pretty stupid, because in both cases you’re observing attentively over a period of time, the only difference perhaps is that the book is “better” and its hilarious because people don’t recognize the fact that that just entails to them being more interested in even more vivid imagination and description of a world that doesn’t exist and then feel proud about it.
I do understand though why people don’t get out of reading fiction. Aside from those who are downright lazy and habitual of addictive entertainment of mindless imagination, there is another reason; fictional books are an ancient form of escapism, they give us easy control too because its we that imagine it, and that’s why we care so much about the way a book is written too, sometimes even overlooking the content, we want it to please us in its reading, how dumb is that. Now, this escapism, if you look at it, creates an illusion, now this illusion needs to have a problem, struggle and resolution (which is created by the author) are the three combined gives a sense of satisfaction, when accustomed to this dimension of illusion that creates false problems and then solves them, the reality becomes irrelevant and whatever bring them to reality becomes something to stay away form because it won’t take a week to reach the resolution but years and sometimes decades. When you read books like The Rape of Nanking, Kunan Poshpora, Gulag Archipelago, you realize that world is so skewed that solving the problems in it will take your entire life, unlike the stacking of satisfaction through volumes of imaginative worlds.
Now I’m in no regard saying that one shouldn’t entertain themselves but the current premise of reading has become entertainment and that’s false. Even if the goal of reading for someone is entertainment, they should at least have the gut of admission to the fact that reading for entertainment is in no way what one should primarily have. The problem with that is that is the first bloody book that one picks put when reading, or starting to build a habit of reading is fiction, well that’s the first wrong step right there and you can imagine the road. It’s also noteworthy that reading non-fiction burdens one with the weight of knowledge of the world, that gets to your conscience and creeps on as a guilt of inaction of the problems of the world. Now who am I to put forth the premise of reading? Well, it’s not I that is doing this, it’s common sense, as the world is engulfed in already actively observing someone else’s imagination (movies etc.) now when the classic source of knowledge is littered with escapism too, then there’s something wrong with the world we live in. If that’s the extent of illusion and escaping from reality we need, the problem has been overlooked way too much because the door of knowledge of the problem is overshadowed.
Through the spectrum of this premise of readers, we aren’t creating leaders with the reading that the era is doing, we’re creating liabilities. An era, with no knowledge of the past has no future, living in illusion is no solution, a reading that takes you far from reality creates false deity. I hope you get what I’m saying because that rhymed too, and that should be enough of a premise for you to start reading about the actual world we live in.