I LOVE books. I love reading…
I can just remember a time when I couldn’t read. I was about 2 and my mother had a decorative tile in the bathroom with a list of what should be done to clean the bathroom before you left it. I resented that tile because of the scribbles on it because they had power over me. By the time I started school at 4, I was reading. I don’t remembered the ‘Oh’ moment. I do remember being pages ahead of the rest of the class and getting trouble because I didn’t know where they were up to.
In his post on the development of reading as a tool and a skill, Changizi draws an analogy with language and music, both of which appear to be instinctive in that there are certain portions of our brain devoted to processing them. But:
‘Why is reading a problem for language and music instincts? Because, like language and music, our ability to read also has the hallmarks of design. …and yet we know we have no reading instinct.
We know there’s no reading instinct because writing is too recent, having been invented only several thousand years ago, and not taking hold among a large fraction of the population until just a few generations ago. There’s a good chance all or most of your great great great grandparents didn’t read.’
He goes on to argue that reading, rather than being instinctive, is a tool that we developed to fit in with the way our brains work. In his post on Writing the Superpower. He says that we are so good at reading because the technology of writing is:
‘not simply some new untested technology, but one that has been honed over many centuries, even millenia, by cultural evolution. Writing systems and visual signs tended to change over time, the better variants surviving, the worse ones being given up. The resultant technology we have today allows meanings to flow almost effortlessly off the page and straight into our minds. Instead of seeing a morass of squiggles we see the thoughts of the writer, almost as if he or she is whispering directly into our ears.’
And he makes this point about readers (as listeners):
‘writing has allowed us to be much better listeners than speech ever did. That’s because readers can easily interact with the writer, no matter how non-present the writer may be. Readers can pause the communication, skim ahead, rewind back to something not understood, and delve deeper into certain parts.’
So this is why I love reading. It is effortless. It just flows, filling my mind with ideas and insights. Conversely, I love writing because that is the other half of reading.
I love building the world and the people, layering it with rewrites, creating a story which the reader participates in by bringing their own life experience to it. For instance, I had to read Lord of the Flies for school when I was fourteen. I found it fascinating and I identified with Piggy. When I was twenty I read it again. This time I saw so much more and I identified with Simon, the mystic. When I was thirty-five I read it again. And again I saw so much more in it. This time I identified with Ralph, the reluctant leader.
So a book grows with you and you grow. It isn’t static. Now isn’t that an amazing thing?