Instruments of Self-Exploration

IMG_1120Over the past few days my wife and I have been painting my book room and boxing up books. A lot of books! Anyway, my wife, having superior organizational skills, (and an app), scanned bar codes and marked boxes so it would be far easier to find a particular book later on. Of course I slowed the progress. I would go along, handing her book after book and then suddenly stopping mid stream. I’d stare wistfully at a book, begin thumbing through it, rereading underlined passages, remembering the thoughts and feelings I’d had when I’d first read it. I know, just pathetic. Looking at all those books made me wonder what my love for books and reading had really done for me over the years.

As I stood there wondering, I reached for a book I’d read that just happen—naturally—to be right in front of me. I opened it and the first passage I’d underlined in pencil read:

We turn to books in the hope of better understanding our selves and better engaging with the meaning of our experiences. Let me say, right off, that I believe a work of art is primarily concerned with the creation of beauty, whether through words, colors, shapes, sounds, or movements. But it is impossible to read serious novels, poetry, essays, and biographies without also growing convinced that they gradually enlarge our minds, refine our spirits, make us more sensitive and understanding. In this way, the humanities encourage the development of our own humanity. They are instruments of self-exploration.

— Michael Dirda, Book by Book

I love this passage of Dirda’s. At best, all a love for books and reading can do is encourage the development of our own humanity. It’s up to each of us to allow that to happen. And that, my dear reader, is the project of a lifetime.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s