Friday, March 23, 2007

appetite for knowledge

I think for the first time in my life, I have unread books laying around the house. I probably have at least a half dozen I would say...well, maybe not so many, running the gamut of subjects I want to read about. I'm reading Ann Dillard's classic, "A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek". I'm trying to wade through Simone Weil-her name keeps coming up in my reading. I laid aside a book about emotions (A Mood Apart) where I disagreed with the "expert" who wrote it as much as I agreed. I have Kay Jamison's study on biopolar disorder and the artistic temperament laying in my studio next to a book I almost finished but didn't. Usually I fly through reading material like an Olympic swimmer cutting through the water. But not lately. I just got Robert Kiyosaki's book, "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" in the mail yesterday and plan to go to Barnes and Noble to pick up books on classic mythology and ancient philosophy because a friend so highly recommends reading Marcus Aurelius.

I suppose when I would read in the past, I took that subject and book presentation like a meal on a plate, hoping to be specifically nourished in an area of my life, and once I "put my fork down", being sure of the material I read and clear on how to apply it to my life. My problem is, the books I'm reading now provide no cut and dried, clear method on how they fit into my life. They intrude and challenge, dare me not to understand-oh, I'm also trying to get through Kierkegaard-and leave me feeling like my eyes are bigger than my stomach, so to speak. Is everything I'm reading true? I really get confused when the author seems to have a secret pipeline to knowledge and full confidence in it that I do not possess. Even in referencing the material and comparing it to scripture, to everything I know or have experienced, still I come up empty and I may always come up empty to some degree.

I wonder about culture in the past where such reading was required, even done recreationally-am I missing something? I consider myself smarter than the average bear, but boy, I think it's more than that! Is my compass off? Maybe it's enough that the world is full of all different kinds of people, but something I heard recently scares me. Classic books, even books my generation considered indispensable, are being pulled from library shelves because they are not being read. Things are being forgotten. I think one of the truest, and most frightening things about humankind is that unless we are reminded of the past and other people's experience, we suffer from debilitating collective amnesia, and knowledge is lost forever, until someone-a brave thinker in a new world, picks up a book, finds a thought and is reminded again that there is something more out there.


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