Re-posted for the readers at heart ❤
Have you ever seen a library – perhaps in a picture or on a movie – with its shelves teeming over with beautiful, old books, and it stirred a longing deep within you to simply soak in its existence? Libraries – books – are magical. Those who read have a nearly uninhibited capacity to experience the knowledge and beauty of the world, while those who don’t – or won’t – doom themselves to live a mere shadow of their potential life. As articulated by George R.R. Martin:
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”
Books have an almost therapeutic quality about them. There is something uniquely delightful about running your hands over the golden-filigreed cover of a thousand-plus page volume of the complete works of William Shakespeare, knowing that with each turn of the page you are tapping into his very heart and soul. Imagine, when you pick up an old, worn book, the many miles it has traveled – whether over land and seas, or else through the hearts and minds of those who before you have found pleasure in its pages. Do you ever stop to think that each book has its own story, its own personality? If it is not a known journey, then it can be your distinct pleasure to create one!
The ability to read is the ability to discover new worlds. To experience dangers and adventures that you would never have the opportunity to indulge in otherwise. I think about the numerous times I have vicariously solved mysteries through the eyes of Sherlock Holmes or Nancy Drew. I have experienced loss, trauma, and tragedy as well as an energetic rallying of my heart and mind through the borrowed life of Katniss Everdeen. From the safety of my couch or bed I’ve fought bravely alongside valiant knights, infiltrated enemy headquarters with spies and rebels, and survived the onslaught of evil during the end times. I have traversed continents, forged jungles, and liberated lands and people. All without ever traveling more than the ten-or-so yards to the restroom or refrigerator, and never wielding more than a willing heart and a ready imagination.
I’ve lost many a friend along the way and I’ve gained many more. I have experienced joys that remain filed away as fond memories of a borrowed past, and I’ve endured tragedies that have left scars on my heart and tears in my eyes. Many times, as I close the final pages to a novel or series, I feel an emotional emptiness as though with that motion I am vaulting away a part of myself inside. We can envy people within our circle of friends and acquaintances that have gone on extravagant vacations and adventures. We can daydream and think “I wish I could – ” and you fill in the blank. The reality, however, is that we are without excuse for living a dull and lackluster life. Countless exploits are out there, ready and waiting. With every fiber of their being they are longing to be given new dimension and meaning by our imaginations, and equally they are poised to grasp the opportunity to leave their unique imprint on our lives.
In addition to the adventure available at our fingertips, books wield the power of information. Carl Sagan once said, “One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1,000 years. To read is to voyage through time.”
To voyage through time, yes, but also to pillage the minds of great men and women from as far back as we have recorded writing. No time machine could ever do what books can do. Books are literally the author themselves, preserved and memorialized. Their deepest thoughts, emotions, and philosophies are poured out onto the timeless pages, as though to forge a deeper path into the past and those who lived in it. Think of the immensity of the amount of knowledge available! We have to do no more than turn a few pages to experience the great minds of past and present. Writers over the ages have managed to instill in their books thoughts, ideas, and emotions that the we would never think to think, imagine, or feel on our own.
Without C. S. Lewis, would anyone have ever wanted to crawl through a wardrobe in the hopes of finding a world where animals talked and the trees came alive? Without J.R.R. Tolkien would anybody have imagined themselves trudging through a place called Middle Earth, pressing through temptation and inner darkness to free the world from the clutches of evil? Who would have thought to use words like “auspicious“, “barefaced“, or “dwindled” had not William Shakespeare invented them? Or who would have thought about life as “two roads diverged in a yellow wood” had not Robert Frost so beautifully illustrated it for us? Oh, that we could fully grasp the amazing power of the written word.
To live a thousand lives is a privilege afforded any who will accept it. We can be almost anybody and do just about anything all through the pages of a book. And the awesome thing is, though we may finish physically reading a book, its story never really dies. As we read, the stories are becoming woven into our very existence. As we live on, so do the stories, the people, the emotions, and the ideas. It’s beautiful to think, as someone once pointed out, that every time someone reads a book, that book is written in just a little bit different of a way…that those variations of everything ever written and read and the different interpretations by every uniquely impacted reader are intertwined as we live and exude the emotions and ideas formed by the rich compilation of what we’ve taken in into one amazing, beautiful story called life. See, when we read, we do more than change ourselves. We change the world. To live a thousand lives is to influence millions more.
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