Why I Read

Why I Read

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"Why did you read all four books?" a peer asked me after I revealed my summer reading list. "Well," I said, "I thought they would punish me if I didn't." Was this a total lie to get someone off my back, or was it the truth? While it was probably a combination of both, I decided I read for myself. I read to find out about the issues I had been struggling with, like time and humanity. To have feelings that I have never experienced and to escape. With these books I was no longer a scared middle-class white boy from Tennessee, and though it may be cheesy, I was anyone, anywhere.


The issue of time has caught my attention since reading Siddhartha. I desperately want to understand time since it is the basis of society. We live in the present, but these words are in the past. Sure, you could read the words over again, but the first impression is the past. So the past is really all we can look at. But the past does not matter if it is temporary. In 1984 Orwell states, "he who controls the past controls the future." The verb "controls" is very important here. It is in a present tense, stating that he who can change the past owns the future. So why would the past matter if it is changeable? The year could not even be known. It could be the same day forever. Why does the past matter anyway... or even the present? On a large time scale everything we know is but a blip. Einstein's Dreams proposes a profound statement which indirectly points out that the supernatural controls time. We will not be able to slow down the last second, so it will last 'forever'. We can't touch time; it's out of our reach. So therefore, life as we know it has an ending when God says so. Time will continue to pass until the end at its seemingly eternal rate. It's like a river, unstoppable and ever flowing. Trying to battle the current is futile. The pain just makes you feel time pass more slowly when in fact the river keeps running. While personal existence may seem unimportant, Celie from The Color Purple brings across an important statement, " I'm poor, I'm black, I may be ugly... But I am here." While the past, future, and present may seem incredibly small, it's all we have.

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The young men from West Virginia in Rocket Boys notice this once Sonny decides it is time to enter their rockets into the science fair. The Big Creek Missile Agency goes into overtime researching basic rocketry and physics. Time is limited. While limits on time could be questioned, since God controls time, humans naturally place boundaries. So these boundaries exist to us because others believe in them.


More important than finding about what ties the universe together, I found what tied me together. I became the characters in the story. I shot off rockets with Sonny, I was taken away from my family with Celie, I saw life go by in front of me in Einstein's brain, and I was a prisoner stuck in 1984. I hated Mr. in The Color Purple. As soon as I put the book down, I would find myself despising the next person who reminded me of the 'bad guy'--whether it be Sonny's father, Mr., or Big Brother. Slowly I learned how to deal with the different types of enemies, how everyone has his soft side, and the ones that don't do not really exist. Not only did I empathize with the characters, I felt sorry for myself because when I was reading, I was the character. I loved seeing myself in the character because at that moment I knew I was not alone. The issues people struggled with 50 years ago are the same ones I am facing today. I see my ideal over-achieving self staring me back when I read about Sonny. And I strive alongside Sonny trying to get into college. I gaze into the face of my rebellion when I look at Winston. Parts of me and what I hope to be were sprinkled all throughout the books. The words tied me to relationships with myself, relationships so tight that I could mentally feel the blows Winston took as the thought police beat the freedom out of him.


The modern world was reveled to me through the expression of thought in words. I realized as long as the language is expanding, thoughts can remain open. Words control thoughts. If the language is limited, the thoughts are there but are unable to be expressed and shared. Why did I memorize vocab words in middle school? So I could think. I also learned that while 1984 has passed, some of the little thought controls, like language, exist. For example, recently McDonald's heads have been caught lying to the public about their "Monopoly" sweepstakes. The winners existed the same way Big Brother existed. Even the proles had fake lottery winners in 1984. Through a picture and a fake description, the "winners" held power. Big Brother himself had no power. His face was plastered unto every corner, but he was not real. He was 'created' for power. His dark eyes were empty eggshells, his black mustache nothing but bits of the evil 'he' ordered. Orwell showed me that people will lie. The Ministries of Truth, Peace, Love, and Plenty were in fact the opposite of their names. Rather, they were for deception, war, restraint, and stealing. Oceaina was based upon the system of lying. People were not free thinkers, and if Big Brother did not think for them, they would be unproductive. In fact, the unproductivity is truly the basis for society in 1984. As long as the three super powers develop nothing new, nothing will change. But believing that something can change when you know it cannot is 'doublethink'. I am reminded of this daily when I study science and Bible, that somehow both evolution and creation are the same. And creation is evolution and vice versa. In Einstein's Dreams words somehow express the deepest thoughts, whether about a man unable to move or a child in a field who is bound to die. It takes a brilliant man to express his genius to average people. I could find myself reading the same passage twice or even thrice, but I would finally get it. I could begin to think like a genius, and hope to understand the universe. Rocket Boys was a brilliant example of transforming words into artwork that inspires. The underdog, with his less than ideal squad, wins a trophy to match that of the football team. What made this so inspirational was I could relate. I was the father, and the son, and the mother all at once. While I guess I could have been the characters in The Color Purple, I could not relate. Perhaps I could have realized the harsh reality of a missing sister or the friendship of a companion, but I could never find myself in those shoes. I saw the entire novel passing from a distance.


Upon finishing my books, I realized that I had escaped. But where had I escaped too? It wasn't the authors' minds because that would be the same for everyone. It wasn't my mind because I found knowledge. Rather, I found myself in a different place, a different time, with different people. Authors create a "matrix" that anyone can fall into and find themselves.

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