This morning, I was flipping through its pages searching for the right words to fill the Spaces, and I landed on something Oscar Wilde once said:
It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it.
Dear ones: we get to choose what our minds learn. Words pass our eyes, get computed by our brains and then embed themselves into our souls. Our psyches are compilations of All The Things we've seen and heard and read and written.
Our actions, then, do not exist inside a vacuum. The things we DO and the way we see the world directly correlate to the worldviews we've allowed ourselves to ingest. If we're reading garbage, we'll treat people like garbage. If we're reading about people who do their best to be kind; who learn lessons; who take time to hear the stories of their friends, we will do the same. We learn How to Do Life and How the World Works from the characters in our books and from the authors who create them. Our knee-jerk reactions, "what we are when we can't help it," are syntheses of the habits we've cultivated--of the words we've read and written and spoken over and over and over again. WE HAVE A CHOICE IN THIS MATTER.
Let's make an effort to keep Good Books on our shelves. More than that, let's keep them in our heads and hearts. Most of us don't have to read. We're out of school, and teachers aren't assigning chapters, and life is freaking busy. Too busy for books, probably.
But is it? I don't think so. Here's what I think: I think there is exactly enough time for the Important Things in our lives. And I submit that Books Are Important. There will always and forever be moments where we can't help what we will be, and we should prepare our reactions for those moments like it's our JOB. If we practice being kind and nuanced and compassionate...and if we read about characters who are practicing to be that way, too, then most of the time we'll react accordingly.
Since we don't have to read, let's choose to do so anyway. Let's be the ones clinging to words that have shaped society and culture and hearts and reactions for hundreds of, thousands of, years. The World is getting too busy for books. And if you watch the news at all, you've probably concluded its getting too busy for Kindness, too. I bet the two go hand-in-hand.
Let's read the Good Stuff when we don't have to so that we can be the Good Stuff when we can't help it.