Sunday, 5 July 2015

The pleasure of reading

Entertainment, fun and pleasure are basic necessities of life, just after water, food and rest. They’re like bread and butter. We can’t survive without them all.
Reading is one of my greatest pleasures. I can say that my whole being (body, soul and mind) gets totally absorbed by stories and poems I read or hear. It isn’t real life, of course, it’s more. A good book or the story in a work of art draws me into a different dimension, which is not only challenging, amusing, adventurous and charming but also more real. Most of the time, works of art show us in original, engaging ways, how things really are. They explain life to us from a certain point of view with which we may agree or disagree, a perspective we need to take account of. Life, real life, is much more ambiguous, shifting, disappointing and extremely unpredictable. Some authors, especially modern and contemporary ones, clearly write about it. Consequently, reading becomes profoundly involving, not just a diversion but an experience in itself.

Whenever I read a well written, absorbing book, I can’t help taking notes of my impressions and comments and re-examining what I have read: the story, the characters. I meditate on who they are, what they say, how they would react in real life. They can be a shadow that follows me, an entity I can relate to. Memorable characters (like Ophelia, Macbeth, Francesca da Rimini or Don Quixote) become examples we may imitate or whose stories may reflect what we are experiencing. Sometimes during the seminars and discussions I had in my university years, I and my fellow students talked about Shakespeare’s and Jane Austin’s characters as if they were real people. In a way, the world of art is a parallel world that clarifies reality.
When I read poetry it seems to finish so quickly at first, then I need to go back to each line, re-read it again and again, let the music flow and the words penetrate in order to celebrate its whole meaning. It’s so rewarding that it compensates for the frustrations and sorrows we inevitably encounter from time to time. Total bliss is rare. We need to create it, invent it to carry on and justify what is grimy, unjust and unreasonable in our world. Poems are similar to prayers. They unlock a magic world we wish to live in to block out the pain of contradictions and inconsistencies so typical of everyday life. A brief pause we allow ourselves.

Escapism and understanding go together, hand in hand, every time I read a story, a poem, or watch a film, a play or listen to a song. What would life be without such relief? Not only boring, but simply unbearable. Too much crude reality would be so heavy to suffer that it would crush us.

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