The world we live in is full of excitement. It’s full of sensations, reactions, colors, and noise. Last week I read that we consume more information now in a month than people two hundred years ago did in their lifetime. There’s a hummina-grumble amount of information zinging about as we speak. And books have to compete with the in-your-face 3-D Hollywood movies, the wham pow world of video games, music, and every other loud, sensational, colorful, reactive thing out there vying for our attention.
Books are usually black and white. They don’t move unless you make them, and they’re certainly not going to buffet you from every direction when you walk down the street. It would seem that they are at the ultimate disadvantage in this information glutted world. (Oh, I am so excited about this chance to say…..)
And yet, books are the original form of portable entertainment. They are what immortalized the oral histories and legends of our ancestors. The old bards and shamans and storytellers of our tribal foremothers and fathers would entertain by telling the stories of their people. Books kept those stories alive. Before there were televisions and Xboxs and iPods and touchscreens, there were books.
A book is 4-D. It plucks you out of this world and plunks you into another. In that world are sounds, new sights, smells, tastes, emotion. You can lose yourself in a book in a way I’ve never experienced with any other media. When I look at my bookshelves, crammed full from top to bottom and overflowing, I see thousands of pages of old friends. People and stories I grew to care about, to grieve for and laugh with. Characters I sometimes miss so much that I can’t help but drag a book off the shelf and start reading again.
Books are irreplaceable. No matter how much e-books take off, there will always be people who need the smell of pages, the feeling of a cracked spine so well loved that the pages are frayed on the edges. Books like that are the Velveteen Rabbits of the bibliophile’s world; they’ve been read and loved so well that they are Real. There’s nothing like that in all the world.
If there is anything in this life that I am forever grateful for, it’s that my mother instilled a love of reading in me. A passion for words. I think I’ve spent more time getting trouble for having my nose in a book than just about anything else. I remember one day in second grade when my teacher, Mrs Rogers, startled me away from my book to find the entire class standing already. They all stared at me, waiting to say the Pledge. I hadn’t even heard the bell ring. I hadn’t heard the rustle of thirty small bodies scratching their chairs back from their desks, chattering and banging. I was lost in whatever world lived in my book.
If there ever comes a time — I should say when, because it’s inevitable — that technology fails us for good (or a zombie apocalypse wipes most of it out), books will be currency. We will have no way of accessing our thumb drives and hard drives and computers and Kindles or the internet. All that will remain as a testament to our knowledge are pages, printed and bound into books. When such a thing happens, those books will be our saviors. They will hold the keys to things we haven’t bothered to remember.
So here’s to books. Here’s to anyone who commits their stories and knowledge to paper, no matter how humble. Here’s to insuring the human race remembers, both the stories and the histories so we can always learn from them.
Now get your arse off the computer and go read a book.
Or write one.
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