A Little Knowledge…

What happens when you read a book?

In Alan Bennett’s book The Uncommon Reader, the Queen of England suddenly develops an interest in reading. Once she starts reading she starts thinking; she has new ideas and new ways of seeing things that hadn’t occurred to her before. She is no longer in her comfort zone, and that disturbs her, but she hungers to learn more. Those around her become similarly uncomfortable, as she starts asking questions rather than simply going along with the same old way of doing things.

“No one who thinks can be really happy.”
— T.E. Lawrence

Similar is the quote from Proverbs, “He who increases knowledge increases unhappiness.”

The bookworm Voltaire isn’t sure on the topic:

“Where is happiness to be found? I have not the slightest idea.”

He could of at least mentioned that he was happy reading books.

“People can loose their lives in libraries. They ought to be warned.”
— Saul Bellow

You could read (cough) this on so many levels. Losing their lives in the context of wasting their lives in reading? or perhaps losing what they think they know thus changing their lives?

But also…

“Each in his own way imagines Paradise; since childhood I have envisioned it as a library. Not as an infinite library, because anything infinite is somewhat uncomfortable and puzzling, but as a library fit for a man. A library in which there will always be books (and perhaps shelves) to discover, but not too many. In brief, a library that would allow for the pleasure of re-reading, the serene and faithful pleasure of the classics, or the gratifying shock of revelation and of the unforeseen.” — J.L Borges

Despite his abhorrence of the infinite, Borges, in his most famous essay, “The Library of Babel”, envisions a library containing every possible permutation of letters and spaces, hence every possible combination of words (think: a million monkeys and million typewriters creating Shakespeare), which could then be studied to extract great learning and wisdom. But that’s an awful lot of gibberish to wade through in hopes of finding a few nuggets of legible text, and even less than that would be of any value.

“I find television very educational. Every time someone turns on the set I go into the other room and read a book.” — Groucho Marx

Of course he’s also the guy who said

“Outside of a dog a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”

Groucho never had much formal education, being part of a vaudeville family constantly on the move to their next show. Apparently he spent the rest of his life self-educating. Marilyn Monroe was the same way; she liked to read some pretty heavy books, and was quite an intelligent woman despite the dumb-blond act.

And one more:

“I have sometime dreamt that when the day of judgment dawns and the great conquerors and lawyers and statesmen come to receive their rewards — their crowns, their laurels, their names carved indelibly upon imperishable marble — the Almighty will turn to Peter and will say, not without a certain envy when He sees us coming with our books under our arms, ‘Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them here. They have loved reading.” — Virginia Woolf


About pininforthefjords

I'm pinin' for the fjords. That's all.
This entry was posted in books, J.L. Borges, TE Lawrence, Virginia Woolf. Bookmark the permalink.

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