Why do you read so much? Why do you like reading? People usually give the following reasons:
– I want to learn more about the world and people around me. Reading is the short-cut to knowledge.
– Reading expands my horizon and challenges me. It makes me smarter and more interesting to talk to.
– Learning from the mistakes of others allows me to avoid committing a mistake of my own.
No doubt, much of what is mentioned here rings true to us. This is because we use the same alibi. And it’s flattering and seems plausible, does it not?
Now, allow me to muddle the water just a little. I have a slight suspicion that the actual reasons for our great delight in the art of reading have much less to do with acquiring new knowledge than with satisfying our basic egotistical urges (this might appear as an artificial dichotomy as the first might include the second and vice versa. Perhaps our greatest egotistical urge is precisely – to acquire knowledge ). Anyway, here’s why.
First. You read because you can. Either you have or you make enough free time for this sedentary activity. But don’t forget, it is a great luxury. Almost an aristocratic one. Most people seldom have that leisure. Yes, they may have the wish to educate themselves, yet as it often is the case, the father Time or the mother Wealth are not on their side.
Second – and perhaps most importantly – the main reason, why you read, is, to put it short and succinct: you are one ugly (and unhappy) son of a bitch (excuse my French). Let me elaborate. In all likelihood, since you spend so much time reading, your physical appearance is horrendous. Most probably you have some unresolved health and mental issues. I would guess that you have a combination of bipolar disorder, paranoia, schizophrenia and a plethora of phobias. Almost certainly, you are a bespectacled bodily weakling. Any cat could scare the living daylights out of you. Also, you have a limited or no sex and social life. Other people, if it is of any interest, would categorize you as a psychopath, a weirdo, a freak, to put it more politely – an arrogant fuck. Some would doubt that you are human. Indeed, you are a misanthrope par excellence. You hate people. Almost all of them, that you have met in your life, bore you to death. Books are the only escape available to you.
Naturally, because of your innate solipsistic qualities and inherent, self-centered mental make-up, which shapes the core of your experience, you feel very lonely in this world. Nobody really understands you or cares about you as you would like to. You read mostly because you are lost in the labyrinths of world. You read because you want to escape. You search for a path that might suit your – already fragile, anxiety-ridden and traumatized – soul, a path that might lead it to the promised land of deep longed security and stability. However, soon you discover, that the supposed medicine you have taken has become addictive. You cannot stop anymore. You want more books and more knowledge. At last, you feel the grandeur of the labyrinth you have entered, and you lose yourself even further, without ever hoping to reach your goal (if you had one to begin with). The journey becomes the destination. The world of books now takes priority over your life. In fact, you begin to live as if in a book. You start living in a story – your own parallel universe, that no one can access but you. After this stage, there is no turning back, you have become a dedicated bookworm – mesmerized by the world of belles lettres. You have an interest in reality only insofar as it relates to the books you have read. Reality around you changes only insofar as you read about it. It doesn’t exist, if you haven’t read it. Thus, it has changed, while you have read about it now, for instance. Haven’t you noticed the sunset tonight? Of course, you were reading and now you know.
Now, books also provide an escape into a world of fantasy, which has little to do with your income and social status. Ironically, however, that by running away from external reality, in a sense one becomes closer to it. Every book offers a window to world. At times – an open one, at times – a closed one. But every escape is a homecoming. While hiding under the shelter of books, the world only takes a much better notice of you.
Here’s a related article from WSJ, which, I would like to think, validates my point and perhaps gives it a slightly different twist.
“No matter what they may tell themselves, book lovers do not read primarily to obtain information or to while away the time. They read to escape to a more exciting, more rewarding world. A world where they do not hate their jobs, their spouses, their governments, their lives. “
If you have read 6,000 books in your lifetime, or even 600, it’s probably because at some level you find “reality” a bit of a disappointment.
see the full article here – http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444868204578064483923017090.html
Now, if you start analyzing the above-mentioned reasons, you will find one common trend in them, that being: the grotesque importance you give to yourself. Ultimately you are reading for your personal benefit (be it in the form of aesthetic pleasure, intellectual curiosity or boosting of your general IQ). You read in order to enhance your personal appeal, to maximize your intellectual capital, to outperform your peers and to get ahead of the curve (use any metaphor you want) etc. You want to succeed in life. You want to make it. You want to be a winner. (though, perhaps you have found no better way of spending your spare moments.) This is human selfishness at its purest. But have no shame in admitting it. Lego ergo sum.