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Reading is one passion that has served me well. I’m happy to have developed the habit, a habit I can’t account for given the sparsity of reading materials at home when I was growing up. My siblings were not readers, and my parents had hardly enough time and money to spare for books while trying to scratch a living raising us. I was very curious, which fanned my desire to try to understand and figure things out through reading. In elementary school, I checked out books from the library, and when I was old enough to get a library card, I frequented the local library to read books on the premises and borrowed them to take home.
My spotty education from primary to secondary school left me with poor educational foundations. I did poorly in school until later in high school and college. I managed to finish school and avoided failing a grade because I read and learned things on my own. I overcame my academic shortcomings because, at the time, I knew quite a bit about the world from my reading. I did poorly in math and grammar classes, but I excelled in social studies, history, literature, and any subject that required general information and reasoning. I was surprised how much information I kept in my memory, which I could summon when needed.
Reading books, especially the classics, not only expands the mind’s horizon but cultivates reason and provides enjoyment. It humanizes and refines a person’s perception and outlook. It sharpens one’s sense of discrimination and the ability to discern and make wise choices. Books, which are vehicles of culture, provide easy access to the mores, customs, values, and histories of people or nations. They keep us abreast of the stream of information generated by events and human activities. Without leaving the familiar environment of our home or country, books allow us to explore other spaces, which otherwise are not easily accessible to many. They can take us to the past or to what is more current.
Printed words are crystalized thoughts, and their collections in phrases and sentences are imbued with the thought patterns of their creators. It is no surprise that books can sway the minds and sentiments of readers. The more evolved the writer’s consciousness, the greater the impact of his written words. Hindus bestow virtuous names on newborns so they may embody the spoken words. A practice adopted worldwide but has lost its real intent and meaning. For example, Anita, in Sanskrit, means “full of grace.” And my Christian name Fernando means “adventurer” in Hebrew. Wise beings initiate their disciples to recite mantras or prayers seeded with the power to elevate the soul. Reading religious scriptures takes the mind to a religious or spiritual experience. Reciting poetry or a literary piece can create a rapturous or aesthetic experience.
“Printed words are crystalized thoughts, and their collections in phrases and sentences are imbued with the thought patterns of their creators. It is no surprise that books can sway the minds and sentiments of readers. The more evolved the writer’s consciousness, the greater the impact of his written words.”
In the same vein, dark literature, devil worship rituals, sorcery, casting a curse, black magic incantations, and, for a more contemporary example, rap music that glorifies violence, hatred, or death can degrade the mind and influence one to commit harmful acts. It’s no surprise that church or government authorities forbid reading certain literature deemed harmful to the faith or subversive against the established order.
Speaking of the power of words and the value of reading brings to mind Abraham Lincoln’s life. He grew up poor and had very little formal education, and yet, he was a polished writer and eloquent orator. Possessed with great intellect and a love of learning, he was self-taught and would walk miles to borrow books on law from a friend in a nearby town. He never set foot in a university but was a practicing lawyer before serving two terms as U.S. President during the Civil War.
Growing up, none of my peers read books outside of what was required in school. I wish they made more emphasis and encouragement in school to cultivate the love and importance of reading. Perhaps, many more would have acquired the same passion and love of reading books. Now, in the age of computers and the internet, I still prefer to read hard copies of books and magazines at home and switch to digital copies when traveling. It is the most accessible and affordable form of education.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Dr. Fernando B. Perfas is an addiction specialist who has written several books and articles on the subject. He currently provides training and consulting services to various government and non-government drug treatment agencies regarding drug treatment and prevention approaches. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.