When I was little my father told me, “Books are your friends.”
He said it to me after I had taken a huge, precious old volume of Tennyson out to the backyard to read under the acacia trees (one of my happiest memories, by the way). He was trying to tell me to take good care of the books themselves, in their physical manifestations, but I took his words to heart, where eventually they morphed into a habit of forcing my books, at least the ones I owned, to participate in my own chaotic life.
I’d take good care of borrowed books, but if I ever found one I wanted to make my own I would buy it, carry it with me everywhere, dog-ear it, and mark it to death. Yes, books are our friends, but some can be very special friends, like the kinds of friends who’ll put up with your bad habits and still deliver grace and sage counsel.
Whenever I look back woefully on medieval periods of my personal history I can always cheer myself up a bit by running a parallel film of the ideas and characters in the books I’d happened to be reading at this time. This seems to redeem everything.
When the internet arrived with its promises to make every book available online I was ecstatic, but remained expectant until finding some of the newer services that allow you to listen, highlight, and bookmark a large range of books, keeping the intellectual life alive when the world conspires to hook us to video games, bad movies, and social media.
Books will always find a way. May it ever be so.
And while being surrounded by people who could be benefitting from books but who choose not to be, let’s not forget that the world is full of people who would love to be able to read but can’t. The next time you’re profiting from one of your sage “special friends” start thinking of what you might do to aid literacy in the world today.
Every best wish,
The Mindful Bard