Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The act of reading

Everyone reads their own book. The same book read by you is different in your mind from the same book read by me. We are no blank slates. We come to books with our baggage - our contexts, our histories, our experiences and our aspirations. With all that material we take in the book and the book, like an overflowing rivulet comes in seeping in different nooks and crannies of our minds, and finds material to interact with, to grow, to burst into a hundred different questions and thoughts. A new unique experience which only you and the book could have created together.

While writing the book, the author has captured their state of mind from a period of time. A sort of time capsule. A reader then uses their own mindset and its current shallow and deep thought stock to read that book. The drama that unfolds thus is very individual, informed by the understanding and the general landscape of the reader's inner life. It is, as if the text were some sort of code, some sort of spell, and depending on where it unfurls, it creates a very personal, very individual experience. And hence, the versatility, the robustness, or shall I say anti-fragility of the medium.

The same book read by you at different ages of your life can lead to a different reading experience. Such unique entertainment! We should then perhaps, count not the number of books in this world, but the number of potential reading experiences.

Would it be then wrong to say that comparing notes on books read despite the intentions to the obverse, is at best, cursory, perfunctory? Or can I say that even though what each of us takes away from a book might be different, or that each book and a reader is a unique experience, the act of reading is the common thread tying us all together - a book, any book is just a means to the larger end of exploring our own thoughts and inner landscape, and of getting to know ourselves a little bit better.

That it is not the outward journey to the book - which is unique to each one of us - but the inward, the act of reading itself, the time we spend reading is the time we spend travelling inwards, the precious journey to the heart of hearts which is what binds us in the same circle.