A book’s biggest value is that they hold the truth. Without knowing the truth, we can never speak the truth. We speak of opinions, anecdotes and beliefs. And then our conversations turn dull, weak and unstructured. We say things that aren’t interesting, pertinent or that’s just plain repetitive.
They like to speak but because they never read, they speak of unimportant and false things. They regurgitate outdated beliefs, ideas and sensationalist news they’ve heard. In fact, most people I meet, their talks boring.
A voracious reader, on the other hand, the world is theirs. They speak only of the truth. And when they don’t know? They’re silent and appeal to ignorance. They move from conversation to conversation like a swift samurai able to strike a conversation with anyone. Their conversations are mesmerizing, engaging and fervent. They leave their acquaintance awed but also inspired.
A voracious non-fiction reader can tell who’s a voracious non-fiction reader. In fact, if you don’t read, I don’t know how to communicate with you.
Gotthold Lessing, the famous philosopher from the Enlightenment era, said:
The true value of a man, is not determined by his possession, supposed or real, of Truth, but rather by his sincere exertion to get to the Truth. It is not possession of the Truth, but rather the pursuit of Truth by which he extends his powers and in which his ever-growing perfectibility is to be found. Possession makes one passive, indolent, and proud. If God were to hold all Truth concealed in his right hand and in his left only the steady and diligent drive for Truth, albeit with the proviso that I would always and forever err in the process…I would with all humility take the left hand.
Nietzsche, also a famous philosopher, conveyed the same idea. He said, “I love him who lives in order to know.” Malcolm X, the civil rights activist, also said the same, “I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for.” And George S. Clason, author of The Richest Man in Babylon, said, “Our acts can be no wiser than our thoughts. Our thinking can be no wiser than our understanding.” And Sartre, a famous writer, said, “To seek truth is to prefer being above all else.”
Most of us drown in information but starve for wisdom. We absorb information and mistake it for understanding. The goal isn’t the mere consumption of information. Memorization isn’t understanding and knowledge isn’t wisdom. In fact, accumulation of knowledge isn’t knowledge.
Seek wisdom and understanding, not knowledge and memorization. In other words, don’t hold on to useless facts. Knowledge and facts are futile. Learning how to think is much more important. In fact, getting rid of useless information is learning is all about. Acquiring knowledge banishes the uselessness and retrain that which is useful. I can condense everything I’ve learned into one word: freedom. Period.
There is a difference when one reads for oneself and when one reads for school. When one read for oneself, he learns to understand. When one reads for school he learns to memorize.
It’s possible to be extremely well educated but at the same time ill-informed or misinformed. The first step to wisdom is getting things by their right names.
Knowing the difference between democracy and republic, between secularism and theism, between “rule of law” and “rule by law”, between just and fair, now that’s wisdom! And this can only be had by reading. Sure, you can google and YouTube these words. But you’ll never know these pairs, or other pairs, if you never read. It’s only through reading do you have any good chance to stumble upon these pairs.
Remember, thinking isn’t an inconvenience.1 Although it requires time and effort, it’s not a waste of time and effort. In fact, thinking is the best use of time and effort. And, a reader’s main task is to….think!
However, reading doesn’t spare us from thinking. Books don’t think for us. They teach us how to think. Their purpose is to stimulate our thoughts. And the only way to stimulate our thoughts is by reading only the books that bite and sting us.
If we’re not reading books that shake us awake then why bother reading in the first place? So, that we can escape for a few hours? So, that they can make us happy? So that we’re entertained? We would have been happy and entertained without reading the book anyways!
We read books that hit us, shake us and bite us like someone close died. We read books that make us feel like we’re alone, banished in the woods far from any human. A book must be like a machete we use to claw our way through ignorance to the truth. Now, that’s a book!
So, be eager to learn. Love to learn. Lust for it. Be a lifelong learner! Make it your passion. The more I read, the more I learn about myself. And the more I read, the more I learn I’m not alone.
Our ignorance is always cured by a good book. In fact, it’s our only ticket out of ignorance. Wisdom oozes the moment we open up that New York Times bestselling book, the moment we pick up that Pulitzer Prize book. And, it dwindles the moment we close it or reach its end.
So, set aside some time each day to learn. Be a sponge. Be an archeologist. Soak up the 21st century! Soak up the 20th century! Soak up all the centuries! Be a worldwide and timeless individual. I’ll leave this chapter with this quote:
“He who knows, no explanation is necessary. He who doesn’t know, no explanation is suffice.” -Anonymous
To your success,