Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Pleasure of Reading

The pleasure of reading is beyond words. It reaches to the very core of being human, that is, the acquiring of knowledge. Knowledge furthers our ability to communicate and strengthens our interaction with the world, helping us discern between truth and falsehood.

In high school, I remember particularly a class in world literature. My youthful soul lusted after the thrill of discovery, including the adventures found in the pages of books. And of course, the selections were from the best of novels of days gone by.

For many years, I lost the luxury of reading for pleasure. After graduating college, I pursued a career, became a husband and father, and worked hard. My reading became more or less limited to newspapers, non-fiction and religious texts. Sometimes I would think longingly that it had been too long since I had read a novel.

I have rediscovered reading for pleasure. The last six books I have read, in order: Civilization and Its Discontents, by Sigmund Freud (1856 - 1939), Narcissus and Goldmund, by Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) (read for the third time) , Eros and Civilization, by Herman Marcuse (1898-1979), Demian, by Hermann Hesse,  The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881) (second reading), and now I am almost finished with The Torrents of Spring, by Ivan Turgenev (1818-1883). All these books became famous and elevated their authors in the public eye. Of course it takes erudition, knowledge, inspiration and a unique voice to create literary works of art.

Writing a novel can take years. I noticed this when it took three years to write my own book, A Heart Traced In Sand, Reflections on a Daughter’s Struggle for Life. Never before in my life had I taken so long at one task. The most time I have ever spent making a painting was about sixty hours.

Last night, I went with Jean to see the movie about Leo Tolstoy’s final days, called The Last Station. A marvelous film, full of warmth and candor, I especially appreciated it, being a big fan of Tolstoy and having just finished reading Dostoevsky’s Brothers and now pursuing the finish of Turgenev’s Torrents.

I am claiming time for the luxury, great pleasure, and elevation found in reading. Go into a library sometime and look at all the shelves filled with books. This sight is a wonder because it represents countless hours of revelation and inspiration.

Narcissus nodded, deep in thought. ‘Love of God,” he said slowly, searching for his words, is not always the same as love of good. I wish it were that simple. We know what is good for it is written in the commandments. But God is not contained only in the commandments you know—they are only an infinitesimal part of Him. A man may abide by the commandments and be far from God.

From Narcissus and Goldmund, Herman Hesse

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