The habit of reading
LET me start my article with some memorable quotes on reading habit by some great people in history. Here they go:
“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few are to be chewed and digested." Francis Bacon
Well, can anyone argue with that? Hardly. Now the second one I like.
"He who destroys a good book kills reason itself". -John Milton
Very thoughtful, indeed. Here comes the last one.
“The habit of reading is the only enjoyment in which there is no alloy; it lasts when all other pleasures fade.”
In fact, there are hundreds of quotes on reading habit, the subject we are discussing today, but we had to limit to only three because of space constraints. Let me begin my article by quoting some modern day avid readers in our midst. “Reading is probably the easiest and least costly way to travel the world, meet all sorts of people and learn about all sorts of exotic things, without ever having to get off the couch!" says Shafqat, recently graduated and currently busy applying for education abroad. "I have only been out of the country twice, and then too to nearby places like India and Nepal. But through reading, it seems as though I have seen the whole world, met people ranging from eccentric scientists to jealous lovers, and learnt more about human nature than I could in a lifetime of traveling and meeting people. For through the variety of books I have read, I have explored countless other lives and their countless experiences."
Truly, there are few hobbies in the world more rewarding than reading. Sure, movies, computer games and our busy lifestyles have become a hindrance to the reading habit, however, the avid readers can hardly ever give it up completely. People may go from reading ten hours a day to reading less than five hours a week, but no one really ever loses the habit. Ask them to choose between a book and movie, and the choice will always be an easy and predictable one --books.
What puts reading in a league of its own is probably the amount of attention this form of entertainment demands from the reader. With a movie, one can just play the DVD and sit there passively, listening to the lines and admiring the special effects without letting any of it to really sink in. There's a profound line, and seconds later it's gone and you are busy with the next plot twist (or even the next song). With a book, you can never be passive. You must finish this one page before you move on to the next one. You can even read one page over and over again, trying to feel what the characters are feeling and analyze the things that they are doing. When you watch The Godfather, you see Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) as the ruthless heir to a quasi-legitimate family business.
When you <>read<> The Godfather, you meet the same Michael Corleone, doing the same things, but you can finally see the regret, the reluctance and the helpless situation that makes him embrace his role as the 'Don'. The Michael on-screen is just another Mafioso, the Michael in print could be any of us: just replace the mafia with a job that you must stick to in order to support your family, or a responsibility you must shoulder whether you like it or not. It all boils down to getting involved, something that is so much easier with a book than with a movie.
You can never read a book with a blank mind. No matter what you are reading, you are bound to have mental images of what the characters look like, how they speak, what their abode looks like. Your mental images may not be the best, but they are ones that you thought of, the ones that work for you. There are no right answers to what a character looks like, or what his room is like. What matters is that while you're reading, you are conjuring all these images and thinking of all those possible outcomes. All of it is an exhilarating exercise for your brain, something that is known to have triggered the passion for writing in many hearts.
That would be yet another benefit of reading. Not everyone who loves playing PC games feels the urge to try and create a game himself/herself. Nor do all movie buffs dream of making a movie someday. But almost all avid readers nurture a passion for writing, and hope to see their own words in print someday. To be a good writer, the first and foremost condition is that you must be a good reader. You must read a diverse genre of books, get into the depth of the story and try to see how the writer manages to tie the strings together. To do it yourself, you must first see how others have done it before you. Read a lot. Read over and over again. Read intending to do more than just finish the book. It can do magic to the way you see the world around you.
Do you know what was the first word sent to his messenger Muhammad (PBUH) by God? Contrary to what JMB operatives would have you believe, it is not 'kill'. It is not even 'pray' or 'surrender'. The very first word the archangel brought down to earth is 'read'. The first chapter of our Holy Book boasts not about a God who commands heaven and hell and is the ultimate judge of all your deeds, but rather of a God who gave man knowledge and taught him how to express this knowledge in writing. Human beings perish within decades, but the world has been going on for centuries, and will hopefully continue to do so for a long time into the future. Great minds of the past, ranging from Newton to Dickens, are no longer with us. But their words have survived, and managed to enlighten generations afterwards who have taken the trouble of reading their words. When you read a good book with proper attention, it feels like more than just reading a collection of words on print. It almost feels like the writer is talking to you, that he took the trouble of writing this story so that you, someone whom he never met, would enjoy reading it someday. There is no feeling that can beat this one: the feeling that someone separated from you by thousands of kilometers and decades of time is writing just for you, with messages that convey meaning in your own life, about people you may well have run into only the other day. When you read, you suddenly realize that you are not alone in this world, that there are other people who feel the exact same way you do at some level. You realize that the world is full of so many diverse stories, but in the end all stories are but one.
(R) thedailystar.net 2006