Infinite Realms; or, Books

Books are delightful society.  If you go into a room and find it full of books–even without taking them from the shelves they seem to speak to you, to bid you welcome. 

-William Ewart Gladstone

My earliest memories of the gifts I loved best are of the books that were given to me by my parents on many birthdays. My parents being avid readers, with their constant, I’m sure, encouragement I started reading at a very young age and by the age of 5 I was wearing prescription glasses. (4-something years ago Lasik surgery corrected my myopia [and who knows what else!] and rendered me spectacles-and-contact lens-free!) A stack of 5 or 6 “pre-loved” books (the ones my parents knew I would love) brought me the kind of joy no other gift has so far–and even today, I greatly prefer used books over new ones.

Books are a personal gift in that you must know what the recipient likes to read–unless it’s a novelty book of some sort or a self-help book that you think they need, but neither of these will deliver that grin which tells you you’ve done a good gift-picking job–and you must know what they’ve already read or which books they already have in their possession.

Books are a treasure trove. They are that panel which sounds hollow when you knock on it because there’s a hidden doorway behind it, opening doors to new worlds and universes. Reading is one of the best habits that can be inculcated in children because they will learn things from books that they could never have learned anywhere else, from anyone else. Books can teach you to think for yourself and help you develop a mind of your own, your own opinions, convictions, perspectives. They can ask you questions that really make you think and reveal a new side of you to yourself. They can make you ask questions you didn’t think needed answers. And books can answer questions you’d otherwise never think of asking. Isn’t that wonderful?

The pen is certainly mightier than the sword. A well-constructed set of words can make you laugh, force you to think, draw tears, disgust you, enchant you, make you hope, create despair, paint pictures, arouse compassion, beautify life, generate ideas, trigger imaginations…Am I forgetting something? I’m sure the list is much longer.

Once a girl saw me reading and rudely said, “Get a life!” I didn’t respond. The ignorant girl with no respect for the written word can only be pitied. But I will take a page out of Wodehouse’s book and hope she is eaten by bears.

13 thoughts on “Infinite Realms; or, Books

  1. Books certainly are the best.

    Books have taught me how capitalism and communism work

    Books have taught me about the great masters of art and science

    Books have taught me the history of the world

    Books have taught me about men and machines

    Books have taught me how the world works

    Books have given me the best company I could ever have asked for

    And above all, books have taught me to steer well clear of popsies who think that the stars are God’s Daisy Chain, and that sunsets remind them of the Blessed Damozel leaning out from the gold bars of heaven! *shudder* :P

    1. Hahah! In the company of such people, frequently you must have found yourself “indicating with a reserved gesture that this was just the sort of loony thing [you] should have expected her to think as a child, [you] returned to the point.” (From ‘Right Ho, Jeeves’) Books are preferable to conversations with them too.

  2. Especially popsies who tell you to get a life when they see you reading a book. Well, ma’m, I DO have a life, and a fulfilling one at that. I sometimes wonder why people would NOT read books… I seriously cannot imagine having a life without a pile of them surrounding me. Books, and good music. Now that’s another one of those things that put that ‘Pippa Passes’ feeling in me. Browning really hit the nail on the head with that one!

    1. I couldn’t agree more! I don’t know what makes some people think they’re somehow better than those who read. But they are people who really don’t have any idea of what they’re missing out on. I do not understand from where they get that sense of superiority over people who have an imagination (which you simply must possess to enjoy good reads) and the ones who can appreciate the beauty of a poet’s words and meter. I bet that girl does think that “rabbits [are] gnomes, and that if [she] held [her] breath and stayed quite still, [she] should see the fairy queen.”

  3. THE TABLES TURNED
    AN EVENING SCENE ON THE SAME SUBJECT

    UP! up! my Friend, and quit your books;
    Or surely you’ll grow double:
    Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;
    Why all this toil and trouble?

    The sun, above the mountain’s head,
    A freshening lustre mellow
    Through all the long green fields has spread,
    His first sweet evening yellow.

    Books! ’tis a dull and endless strife:
    Come, hear the woodland linnet, 10
    How sweet his music! on my life,
    There’s more of wisdom in it.

    And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!
    He, too, is no mean preacher:
    Come forth into the light of things,
    Let Nature be your teacher.

    She has a world of ready wealth,
    Our minds and hearts to bless–
    Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,
    Truth breathed by cheerfulness. 20

    One impulse from a vernal wood
    May teach you more of man,
    Of moral evil and of good,
    Than all the sages can.

    Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
    Our meddling intellect
    Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:–
    We murder to dissect.

    Enough of Science and of Art;
    Close up those barren leaves; 30
    Come forth, and bring with you a heart
    That watches and receives.
    1798.
    William Wordsworth

    1. Wordsworth does hit the node with this! But I guess books in this case would be more of a way to escape the usual drudgery. I’d love to be in a place with rolling green hills, scudding clouds, clear blue skies and all the fixings that Ma Nature could provide, but being unfortunately stuck in a big city where the first thing I see in the morning is the sun trying to break through the smog, it becomes a little depressing without any books to fall back on! But then, having said that, there’s much to be appreciated in the world outside. Because try as I might (with due apologies to the author of this blog, lest she think I’m a traitor to the cause!), I can’t go hiking or swimming in books!!

      Plummie: You know what’s worse? The ones who read just a couple of books of the critically-acclaimed nature, and start thinking they’re the cat’s whiskers and the bee’s rollerskates when it comes to being ‘erudite’ (One popsy actually used that word with me, subject to a lot of ROFLing when she turned around) – they just don’t seem to get that books are about expanding their personal horizons, and not about being chic.

      1. I hate repeating myself, but I do agree. I travel for the same reason. Books can tell me all about the culture and fashion in France and Italy, but I will never get the real feel of the life there or feel the cobbled stones under my heels or be awed by the Colosseum unless I’m actually there. There is a life outside of books, of course, but when it’s raining outside or when you really do want to have a quiet day by yourself, or your mind needs a wordy treat, books can be the answer to several prayers never said.

        I’ve met those people too! They’re everywhere, aren’t they? Goes to show how alike people are across countries and continents even. They drop a few fancy words they may have picked up and/or memorised and think it makes them intelligent. One must do some tutting in their presence. I’ve met the ones who think they’re the cat’s whiskers, but I haven’t yet run into those who think of themselves as the bee’s rollerskates. Note to self: Keep eyes peeled. Thank you for the heads-up! ;)

    2. A great poem by an even greater poet. The tables turned indeed and a reminder to all that life must be lived, that we must lift our heads from between the pages of a book and venture out and, perhaps, even bring the books to life.

  4. The difference between the two pastimes is so vast that one cannot compare the two, and neither can one trump the other. To me a healthy balance between the two is best.
    Traveling, a beautiful sunset, hiking, swimming, clear blue skies, adventure is what we experience ourselves as are the feelings love, hate, exhilaration, surprise, curiosity, boredom as a result of living life.

    But how would anyone know about our thoughts and experiences and how we felt unless we shared them either verbally, or in the form of the written word.

    Books are a collection of people’s experiences, fantasies, dreams, imagination, etc. that they are passionate enough about to pen and share with others. Some people have the urge to write about the events, dreams and stories whether as prose or poetry, and other people have the urge to read them. What we call good books or literature/poetry depends on one’s background, upbringing and interests.

    So here’s to both!! I love both.

    I love reading books and poetry and sometimes they arouse strong interest and emotions and sometimes they don’t. I love traveling, meting people, new experiences, making friends, singing and generally living life with a passion; sometimes the experience is great and sometimes not so much. Either way it works and I enjoy it. Because, as they say, in order to recognize good literature one must read some bad, to recognize good people one must meet some bad ones… and so on and so forth.

    Just some thoughts, not a book yet!!!! :-)

    1. …with so many worlds left unrevealed, so many perspectives left unexplored and so much imagination left dormant. Without them we’d have the equivalent of a gaping void in our minds.

  5. I found it!!!
    I have been searching for this poem since the last two weeks and today while dreaming in WW and PBS’s poems it came to me like lighting in my sleep and I woke up.

    Here is the poem WW wrote before the one quoted above and it is so soft and sensitive.

    “WHY, William, on that old grey stone,
    Thus for the length of half a day,
    Why, William, sit you thus alone,
    And dream your time away?

    “Where are your books?–that light bequeathed
    To Beings else forlorn and blind!
    Up! up! and drink the spirit breathed
    From dead men to their kind.

    “You look round on your Mother Earth,
    As if she for no purpose bore you; 10
    As if you were her first-born birth,
    And none had lived before you!”

    One morning thus, by Esthwaite lake,
    When life was sweet, I knew not why,
    To me my good friend Matthew spake,
    And thus I made reply:

    “The eye–it cannot choose but see;
    We cannot bid the ear be still;
    Our bodies feel, where’er they be,
    Against or with our will. 20

    “Nor less I deem that there are Powers
    Which of themselves our minds impress;
    That we can feed this mind of ours
    In a wise passiveness.

    “Think you, ‘mid all this mighty sum
    Of things for ever speaking,
    That nothing of itself will come,
    But we must still be seeking?

    “–Then ask not wherefore, here, alone,
    Conversing as I may, 30
    I sit upon this old grey stone,
    And dream my time away,”
    1798.

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