Recently my wife and I spent some time enjoying the warm southern breezes on a white sandy beach. It was one of those vacations, when the results of the time spent away from home ended in the results we always hope a vacation will provide-rest, relaxation, and a time to dream under the warm skies without the daily concerns we each have.
I accomplish some of my best thinking when my eyes are closed, not asleep, just thinking without seeing. My imagination allows me to see bits and pieces that I can hopefully turn into a story. Sometimes the stories are worth retelling and sometimes they are best left in the world of my imagination.
On one particular day, Mary sat beside me reading. She would read for awhile from her Nook and then after a while she would turn off the e-reader and open a real book and begin to read. She likes to read from the new electronic books, but she somehow still loves to hold a book in her hands. I prefer a real book to a handful of slick plastic containing electronic words. Reading the words on a paper page and holding the edge of the next in anticipation is part of the experience.
Reading a book is much like what I experience when I write. I never know what is going to be on the next page until I turn it. As we read, our eyes are constantly absorbing the words on the page. But, somewhere inside, our mind is trying to race ahead and wonder where the next paragraph is headed.
Often we are surprised by the direction the writer has taken us. To try and anticipate the story is part of the joy of reading. With the simple act of turning a page we move through a world created by the wonder of an imagination.
By reading we can travel to faraway places and meet new people all at the tip of our fingers. It is an amazing gift to see a collection of words on a page that were only once a jumble inside of someone's imagination and now they tell a story others may enjoy. You cannot touch someone's imagination or touch their word until they are written down. Yet, they are as real as the story they tell when still wrapped in the writer's imaginations. A good writer can make you feel the warmth of the setting sun as the hero kisses his love on a far away beach. Or perhaps bring a tear to your eye as they tell you of a lost childhood friend from a forgotten fairy tale. You know they are only stories, yet they can touch our emotions deep inside.
If you study how mankind developed from the beginning, you will realize we know and believe the words left behind by writers has a great influence on how we believe it once was. Great philosophers of the ancient worlds wrote some of the first words telling of their beliefs, fears, and loves. Many thoughts from their minds and imaginations are still read and studied today. Man first began with numbers being written down before words emerged. It was not long after different languages began to be created. Those earlier writers recorded their history and beliefs. Words written down by man became the past history that we know today. Some stories became legend, others became history. I sometimes wonder if down through time, has a legend ever become history and history became legend? I guess we will never know if history has ever been rewritten by the person who records it.
The Greeks were among the first to write epic stories of love, betrayal, and great heroes-stories that many of us may have studied or read while in school. Who among us has not read the story of the Trojan Horse that was used to defeat the city of Troy after a 10-year war? It was chronicled in a Latin epic poem from the time of Augustus. All that we know of that great military strategy has been passed down through the ages by the simple written word. Words that were once contained in the imagination of someone who sat down and wrote them telling a story we all know. Did he embellish the great horse or did he diminish it in his the telling? We will never know.
We live in a time when some say that the day will come when all that we read will be contained inside a device of electronic memory. There is a library in California where no paper books are on the shelves. Rows of desks, each with electronic screens for the visitors to read the classics, are all that is available. Neat, clean, and pure words made of electrons. No dogged eared books to hold in your hand. The faint smell of old paper nowhere in the clean electronic world. No worn pages to run your finger along as you carefully read the words so you don't miss any.
Most likely each of us has begun to read a book and the events of the day pull us away from the pages. The book is forgotten and not remembered for a time. Then one day, you move an old coat and you find the book awaiting your return. You smile, open the pages, and begin to read. You are instantly transported back into the world within the book. If you were reading an e-book and laid it aside it would be much different when you found it later.
As you turned it on to begin reading, the screen may glow brightly and then begin to fade. The last words you read, "Low Battery". The slick electronic device goes dark and cold in your hands. A book will never fade to darkness or grow cold as long as Tom Sawyer, Jessie Stone, or Jane Eyre await your return within the words of a book somewhere Through the Lens.