Spectatrix, in a post titled The Need to Read, describes reading in a way that resonated with me.
“There is something so comforting to me about diving into a good book; it gives me a distraction from my sometimes wearying thoughts without draining my energy as spending time with others has a tendency to do.
“While reading is always a favorite activity, I do have periods when I’m not so much in need of the written word. I’m content to dip into and out of various books, magazines, and Web sites, without suspending other activities. But at other times, the need to read feels almost like a physical necessity, and long periods of devouring a good book the only antidote.”
It got me wondering, what would my life have been like if I had grown up speaking a language which was not written? If I didn’t even have the concept of reading? When I try to imagine being an introvert in a world without books, all I come up with is a big, black hole. I can’t come up with anything else that I enjoy in similar ways or that comes close to doing the same things for me that reading does.
There are other pleasures, delights, satisfactions in my life. But they don’t meet the same needs or bring the same type of pleasure in the same way. As a matter of fact, almost every other thing I really enjoy doing takes energy. Which is not always a big deal, but sometimes (like now when I’m struggling to recover from severe burnout) it is huge. Even before burnout was an issue, reading was the pleasure I could come back to to recharge after other things in life (pleasures or not) had drained me.
I so understand the times when “the need to read feels almost like a physical necessity” that I wonder what that need would be replaced with if reading wasn’t even a blip on my radar screen.
Maybe the need for this kind of “losing myself in a book” is a luxury of living in a world where thinking can count as work. Probably the distraction from my wearying thoughts wouldn’t be an issue if I was preoccupied (both physically and mentally) with the day-to-day necessity and hard labor of getting food and water. (My extravert friends would certainly agree. It is incomprehensible to some of them that I don’t get up and DO something to recharge my energy instead of sitting around reading when I’m worn out.)
What would you do if you couldn’t read or didn’t even know reading was an option?
I’m not trying to be patronizing here with an attitude of “Oh, those poor people who can’t read.” There is a richness to oral cultures that I know I can’t fully comprehend. Philosophically or politically, I’m not making any kind of statement about how everyone needs to be able to read or how literacy is the answer to the world’s problems. As much as I love to read and see many benefits of literacy , I have problems with blanket solutions, even if they involve reading.
My thoughts on this topic today are way less deep than those issues–I really am just wondering what a person like me would look like in a very different setting, with books out of the picture.