Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me. In other words, the biggest lie we ever tell.
By words we have the power to paint a universe of planets we only see a glimmer of. To invent a new world completely contrary to what we know of in nature. We can show a blind man color by explaining the warmth of the sun. Our minds are extraordinary and its engine is words.
By words we inspire a multitude to unite in the face of tragedy. To reassure a mother, a father, a sister, a brother when the warmth of arms just isn’t enough. We teach young children the importance of words: why lying gives them no profit. Words touch the heart in a way that is easily missed by an action.
By words we can destroy a spirit that was thought of to be strong. To dismantle a heart that was once full of joy. We are vicious at our lowest, and magnificent at our highest. By words.
Why words matter is why books matter. Books that encapsulate human nature as it is. We seek the realm of fiction, non-fiction for escapism, but when we pick up Charles Dickens, when we pick up Jane Austen, when we pick up a novel about the human experience we learn about the nature of humanity by people themselves. We can begin to understand the cogwheels of the mind.
Once I was told that reading literature was a short cut to life, because we read text books to understand math, we don’t rediscover it. With literature we read to learn what has already been discovered by our ancestors.
Satire is my favorite example of this. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov and Candide by Voltaire are two of my best loved satires. And the biggest lesson taken from either? Don’t take everything so seriously.
This is why I build my library now, without a house of my own, without enough bookshelves. I believe in the knowledge that is carried through books the way Christ used parables. It’s up to us to listen and absorb those words so we can understand why something is right (was Voltaire right about optimism?) or why something is wrong (extreme optimism.)
So buy books, but build a library full of worthy intellect.