Books, a poison and an antidote

Books, a poison and an antidote
Photo by Ed Robertson / Unsplash

To this day, in spite of all our technological advancement, books are still one of the most influential mediums of knowledge sharing. I didn't dare to say it is the most influential one even though I think it is. In fact, there are ebooks now, I wouldn't have guessed. Anyway, they are mainly used to record thoughts, ideas, imaginary scenes, emotions and just about anything that could be described using words (which is basically anything). Throughout history, there has been periods where books had been banned, censored and burned in an effort to eradicate a school of thought, a philosophy or simply a seemingly innocuous idea.

Many philosophers and thinkers tried to warn us about harms that a book can have on our lives. There is a certain magical element about a book, especially a well written one, where it engulfs you in its own universe and it makes you sometimes proud to understand the idea that it wants to communicate to you, it makes you relate and even incorporate it as your own.

I remember reading my first non-fiction book. I was instantly bewitched by it. Not long after finishing it, I found myself preaching its ideas. Then I read another one with few ideas that contradict the first. I wasn't aware of that until I took a step backwards. I realised that I was getting played with (hyperbole, is it really?). I started to feel right then and there the dangers a book can have on its reader. As Seneca said:

[...] Be careful, however, lest this reading of many authors and books of every sort may tend to make you discursive and unsteady. [...] And in reading of many books is distraction.
You’ve got your work cut out for you.
Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster / Unsplash

I think Seneca understood something about reading books. You become disoriented. You lust behind this dopamine trigger that takes shape in feeling smart, feeling that you've learned something new. But it doesn't really change your life, does it? You become a machine, a word eater, and if I may dare to say, you become without an identity.

Reading a book, even after getting used to reading, be it a fiction book or a non-fiction book, requires a certain level of implication and energy. You get engaged to that book, you get engaged to the author of the book, and that engagement may or may not end by the last page. And when it doesn't, it means you bought its ideas. Sometimes through deception, and when you buy something, it is hard to admit you have been fooled.

Spending time on a subject is like investing your money in a project. It is very hard to pull out if it turned out to be a bad one. Same goes for ideas, you try your hardest to make them work when in fact you can just let go and start over. But this is primarly non-fiction books.

Fiction books are a different story. I feel that they are more efficacious because the ideas are surreptitiously communicated. The reader has its guard down as they are only reading a fiction book. Be careful of what you read and be cynical about every story you hear, every little thing you read. Use your critical thinking to your advantage. It is way better to live by few ideas and ideals and be integral in your identity rather than being lost in a sea of ideas.



I was born to die