Thinking About: Why I Read (so much)
I have been asked more than once why I read so much. Occasionally I’m even asked why I read at all. That question used to really perplex me. I mean, how can you not read? Reading to me is akin to breathing. It’s something I have to do, something that comes naturally to me, something that I hardly need to think about but can scarcely conceive of not doing.
In a way I am driven to read. In my late teens I felt a burning desire to understand the world. To be honest life and living confused me. There was so much about life I simply did not understand. My education at the time was singularly failing to fill the gaps in my knowledge. I guess that state educational isn’t really cut out to answer the heart felt questions of teenage boys. So, already reading fiction voraciously, I plunged headfirst into the world of non-fiction too, reading anything and everything looking for answers that continued (and largely continue) to elude me. Oddly, looking back 30 or more years, I’m surprised that I didn’t read much more philosophy back then. Maybe it’s just that my local library didn’t have much of a philosophy section – it could be that simple. After a (long) while I gave up the direct seeking of some kind of universal truth and followed my nose looking for books that interested me at that time. By nature I have an annoyingly butterfly type mind. I find myself fascinated by a subject for a short period of time, read everything I can on it, then move on to a new fascination. About the only subject I keep returning to, year after year and decade after decade, is Science Fiction. Everything else is ephemeral. My seeking these days is both more focused and more casual. I’m not driven in the same way as I was 30 years ago. I guess I’ve developed perspective along with my grey hair. I no longer expect to find the secrets of the universe or the secrets of life in a single book. I accept that such a book does not exist and probably never will – no matter what some people would have you believe.
After reading thousands of books in the last 35 or so years that I have been an avid book consumer I am beginning to wonder if the answers to my questions exist at all. Maybe I’m just looking in the wrong places. After all, the scope of human knowledge is vast. I stand in awe at the amount of things I do not know and never will know. I am sure that there are whole areas of knowledge I am totally unaware of. Even when I am aware of such things my knowledge of those areas is often scant. It would take a hundred life times to understand a goodly proportion of what we have learnt to date about the universe we inhabit. I am, in consequence, full of doubt and ignorance. I actually can’t help but laugh at those who profess any great certainty about things and I’m astonished by those who honestly believe that they have the answers to life, the universe and everything – often encapsulated in a single ancient text. Such an attitude to me is quite simply incomprehensible. To profess such knowledge is a sure sign of staggering ignorance.
So why do I read (so much)? These days I read mainly for entertainment. One of my recent tutors couldn’t believe that during a fairly intense course load I still had time to read fiction. He was amazed that I had the time. But it is a truth universally acknowledged that all work and no play would make Cyberkitten a very dull boy indeed. The second driver is, of course, enlightenment. I’m still hoping that I’ll discover something truly profound in the books I read. I’m seen hints and followed them as best I can. When I have something substantial to report you’ll read it here first.