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I had last week written on why reading is essential for getting in a rounded personality (Why Early Reading for Kids Makes Sense?). One of the interesting revert was that while books are good to make one ‘successful’, too much emphasis on the books will make a person 'bookish'.
Two errors of judgment lie in here, in my opinion.
Primary issue is the assumption that I am advocating reading from the view of making a successful person, intonation being a successful person from the practical parameters. That was not the premise when I wrote that. I do not think success in a worldly sense has some written formula or recipe. Luck or fortune plays a great role there. We use some phrases every day, something to do with American world view that we do not realize the deeper significance of it. In an interesting writing by Alain De Botton, a contemporary philosopher refers to this. He posits that in an ancient world, when we came across a poor and thus ‘unsuccessful’ person, we would call him ‘unfortunate’. Now a days, we bring our kids up with the philosophy that they can be anything they want to. Which is an erroneous idea, and a dangerous one. What we could actually become is defined by our circumstances, our inherent capabilities and our fate, which might for all rational reasons might be quite accidental. Even Napoleon, the self-made Hero of the modern world wore a ring inscribed “To Destiny.” However, this incorrect world-view makes us believe that the person who is not able to be successful as a failure. This not only puts so much of pressure on people, it is factually inaccurate and also unkind.
So, I agree with the line of thinking that fortune or luck has a great deal to do with worldly success. Reading cannot ensure that. In fact, nothing can. What reading can ensure is that one has the heart in the right place and has a mind mature enough to protect it.
It is ill-conceived to believe that writers are away from the real world. In truth, writers are able to trace the world and its inner working more clearly than the most. They have a unique vantage point provided by the ability to put themselves out of the world around them, and then look at it from the outside. It would be of interest to know that the greatest of the writers had very active lives, oftentimes, military or otherwise. Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby while on Military duty, Maugham’s writing career began as an army doctor, Joseph Conrad was a sailor and Anthony Trollope, surveyor for British Post. Hemingway for that matter, was so many thing that he can beat any action oriented man, any day of the week and twice on Sunday, as the say. He wrote on war, even as a celebrated writer, right from the front.
Even if we look at the successful leaders who are able to break out of the set trajectory of success as we know it, as non-writers, they are all avid readers. Reading gives them a rare eye to evaluate the world around them and their own place in it, objectively, dispassionately. Reading is not counter-purpose to practicality, if anything it bolsters human insight and creates a sound analytical engine in the human mind to act on what we call gut feeling. When you look at books as a threat to your way of life, and take to reading as a necessary thing to do, it will stifle you. But when you take to reading as an integral part of becoming a person, it will enhance you, expand you and provide you great subtlety and sophistication to encounter the world without losing your inherent humane values. Even course books when not taken as necessary, rather taken as important, will be read not to clear exams, rather to know things. Clearing exams will happen as a sub-plot, without you knowing it. Read a poem for the sheer beauty of human emotions, read a novel to understand the infinite possibilities of human heart and mind, not to earn as social tool. That you will get a social tool of sophistication, will be an upside, which you will not need to work for. It will give you friends who are truer and life which is more meaningful. Success can mean many things to many people. But most importantly success is the ability to handle life without the necessity to deceive oneself. Reading offers that stiffness of spine and softness of soul.