A World Without Books
Thoreau once wrote, “A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting.”
Reading a book is a personal journey. A cerebral quest where each page is a signpost that maps out a destination bound between two covers. The dreams, neurosis and nightmares of men and women are put to page to nourish the soul, enlighten and tap into that mysterious reservoir of waking dreams. In effect, books are conduits to the eternal.
I have often wondered if, in a way, books are humanity’s penance for all the transgressions against the planet, life and each other—cathartic for the author and ink-pressed prayer beads for the bibliophile. The written word is a personal message shared by many, a celebration in self-cognizance and shared-cognizance. Each time we peer into a book, we have faith that the mystery behind the tale will unfold in an engaging way and eventually come to a conclusion that will leave a mark upon us.
Taking books out of the equation would be like plucking the petals from every rose that ever grew in the entire world or splashing Van Gogh’s paintings with tar. A world without books would be a monochrome world and undeniably signal the end of one of the most personal methods to share and absorb information. It would be a grievous step towards snuffing out free thought and the profoundly positive effects of imagining.
What would a world without books evolve into? I shudder just thinking about the idea.
It could possibly be an overly oppressive world like in Orwell’s bleak classic, 1984, or a world of sensationalized misinformation—a world of self worship—with people disinterested in everything save instant gratification like in Huxley’s, A Brave New World. Both are nightmarish, yet we see social characteristics that both masterpieces warned us about in regards to xenophobia, government control, faddism and misdirection through reality television, biased news reports etc. I have always attributed my ability to see beyond the fluff, past the smoke and mirrors, beyond the veil, to books.
During the modern era, there have been several discoveries that, perhaps, should have heralded the end of the book: the radio, the television, videogames and the all-powerful World Wide Web. I bet that even in third world countries, where illiteracy is the norm, one of these other media assets has made a mark of some kind. For a solid century, books have teetered on the cusp of obsolescence.
Yet here we are.
Since I first read The Chronicles of Narnia as a child, I have always appreciated the power of narrative. Whether to inspire, instill moral dogma, or entertain, storytelling’s influence on the human psyche, is without a doubt, one of the most powerful forces within the realm of human experience. Stories teach, without being oppressive; lie, without being deceitful; inspire, without intoxicating; trigger emotions, without breaking hearts or rending souls. From Beowulf’s epics to Shakespeare’s works to Cormac McCarthy’s, apocalyptic adventure, The Road and so on – sound narrative will continue to enlighten, add color to reality and remind us of the finest and vilest of human qualities. Take away books and we lose this.
We must never forget, and thanks to the men and women who are inspired to scribe their ideas down in the hopes of creating a potent connection, we never will.