The Kitchen Vedantist

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To Read or not to Read

Left Brain Simulation 6

Left Brain Simulation 6 (Photo credit: Paige Marie)

There won’t be many people who don’t extol the virtues of reading- whether they read or otherwise. I don’t know where I stand compared to people who¬†could be called voracious readers; but I do know that I have read some of the greatest literature. If you rate by quality, I know I would score well. Despite all that I also know I don’t like to always read. No, it is not laziness; nor is it that I believe quality is hard to come by, and if one were to read all the time one would have to read second rate stuff as well. There’s so much of great literature that even the most voracious of readers can hope to read only a fraction of it.

For me there is a thing called too much of reading. When you read too much, you are spending all your time immersed in other people’s thoughts. You are seeing the world through someone’s eyes. Yes, there are occasions when a conversation, a turn of phrase, or a situation feels as if the writer had seen your innermost thoughts. The clarity of vision, delightful insight and the wisdom a great work imparts can’t be¬†overestimated. But isn’t there something to experiencing life first hand? I may not be a genius but my perceptions are as unique as I am- I want to have time to be immersed in them. I may not come up with a work of art, but I have an underlying sense of structure to the multitude of experiences that I have gone through- I would like to play with it at least in my imagination.
And then there are other reasons and moods too. Sometimes I read a challenging book-mostly non-fiction- and then don’t feel like picking up another book for months on end. But the time I lie down and stare at the ceiling does something for me- beneath the surface, the thoughts and ideas are assimilated; sometimes new perspectives, spin off ideas and questions are formed; and often I come out of the hibernation invigorated to take on a new exploratory trip down as-yet undefined intellectual pathways. I believe it has added new cells to the matter inside my skull.
Now, is there anyone out there who thinks there’s some sense in this approach? Or am I wasting precious opportunity?
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March 4, 2013 Posted by | culture, literature, self expression, Uncategorized | , | 2 Comments

Lost in Transmission

Statue of Confucius on Chongming Island in Sha...

Image via Wikipedia

A recent conversation about the nature of communication has left me wondering. The guy, someone whose views and judgment I value a lot, was going to meet his friends from schooltime, and I asked “Can you still connect with them?”. He said , “I speak to them in my own way”. He continued that no matter who your correspondent is, they’ll make what they want out of your words. I can readily see the point…our interpretation of someone’s words and deeds is tempered by our own attitudes, experiences and state of mind at that point in time. But doesn’t that make each human an island unto himself? If total communication were not possible, why this irresistible instinct for self expression that only the great silent ones (munis) could overcome? Why this need to be understood?

On the other hand, is this such a one-sided need? Don’t we all at times want to get inside someone’s head, see and experience things as they do? What of that saying “to know someone is to love them”? Why do we buy books and art? Why do great works of art and literature appeal to people divided by centuries and vast geographical expanses? Where lies the universal and where the individual?

These thoughts remind me of a quest in an entirely different field. I just can’t stop marveling about the delightfully thought provoking Edge essay by neuroscientist V S Ramachandran about mirror neurons. Call it empathy, call it collective subconscious, there indeed seems to be some kind of overlapping of minds/experience/consciousness.

Coming back to the munis, is silence the ultimate desirable? Did they withdraw into silence because they realized experience can never be expressed in words? Is it the ultimate victory when one overcomes the need for self expression? If so, have I fallen from grace by starting this blog?

August 25, 2010 Posted by | communication, culture, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments