Triveni Journal

1927 | 11,233,916 words

Triveni is a journal dedicated to ancient Indian culture, history, philosophy, art, spirituality, music and all sorts of literature. Triveni was founded at Madras in 1927 and since that time various authors have donated their creativity in the form of articles, covering many aspects of public life....

On Reading Too Much

K. Chandrasekharan, M.A., B.L.

There is an inherent, tendency in many of us to feel the time spent in reading books as the most profitable. Many even think a life dedicated to books as the best. No doubt the scholar and the writer need constant reading for their daily sustenance. So also the professor in his study and the lawyer in his library cannot do otherwise, as books increase the range of knowledge and the erudition so useful for their vocation.

But the ordinary man with no such claim on him need hardly deceive himself into the belief that books provide him more than life. 'Life is better than literature', wrote a discerning writer recently, not being satisfied with the complacency born of book-knowledge. It is no cheap cynicism or seeming originality to have said that. It is the outcome of a true balance of mind, rare among modern writers.

Books act upon the mind generally unwilling to come into the open of experience, as a dope that leads to morbidity of mind or an escape from legitimate work. Reading becomes almost a disease with some persons who cannot be happy without their fingers between the pages of a book. Others there are who have lost the capacity to be alert and intelligent in their desire to throw themselves always into books, even in the midst of good company. A few deem slight physical work and domestic pre-occupations too, as inferior to the intellectual labour of reading books. Such persons will lose all sense of reality, and entrench themselves behind impracticality. In their enthusiasm for books, the University-educated among us restrain the young and uninitiated from experiencing and understanding life for themselves. The fresh mind and the, healthy curiosity of the child get early stifled in this drastic attempt to keep it confined to the study of books.

The book-habit is necessary to the extent that it makes the mind intensely active. Indeed it prevents dullness and prepares us to resist unhealthy imagination in youth. 'Reading maketh a full man', said Bacon long, long ago. But the reading he suggested implies thinking also; for reading without thought will be like marriage without a bride.

There is no gainsaying the truth that our literary taste improves with reading a select number of books. True, poetry fills our imagination with harmless pleasures. True also that the rare and the lasting in the thought of the past are revealed to us only through books. Better hearts and better brains than ours, when preserved in print, never answer , but, waiting our call, make us forget awhile the littleness we suffer from. They heal our wounds, compose our agitation, and stimulate our imagination. But a line has to be carefully drawn, marking the good from the bad, the necessary from superfluous reading. Else, our fine perceptions may get choked with musty knowledge. Therefore it is that the teacher in the school and the parent in the home should begin exerting a wholesome influence on us even from the beginning. The earliest book needs must be the book of Life. Keen natural observation and normal activity in life should be encouraged in the child. Reading must be limited; for all kinds of reading do not conduce to mental discipline.

Life which is rich, nature which is bountiful, friendship which is sweet, these go by in our blind race for reading. The newspapers announce every day more books of the hour and more authors of the minute. Every journal and magazine discloses much writing that reaches nowhere near the heart of literature. Every flashing advertisement of a new publication serves but to hide the deterioration of its thought-content. Still the reader asks for more books. Stillhis pride consists in his ability to discuss recent authors. His greatest distinction is his possession of the latest writers, He forgets, in this self-delusion and vanity, the essentials of all good knowledge, the purpose of all true learning and the end and aim of the reading habit.

From the peak of poesy and pristine art, Valmiki is willing to lay the fruits of his austerities at our feet. The songs of our own poets hum and swarm round us all the time. But we heedlessly fly on to the bright-coloured bougainvillea, neglecting the roses waiting to be gathered. We pant for the fever which runs in the most modern short story or the longest long story. We seek in vain for the vitamins of life-giving knowledge in the letters of the alphabets and the prescriptions of foreign doctors. We feel after much reading that we want only stillmore printed matter to read. Book-stalls and library shelves draw us away from familiar faces and friendly conversation. We scarcely keep our windows open to allow the fresh breeze from the garden. We keep on the lights in the room, only to screen the soft, beautiful moonlight outside. The stars that ever shine, the evening that beckons, the sea that swellsand falls in rhythmic regularity, and the rivulet that laughs and dances its course of freedom are unnoticed by us. The children have their unending classes and study hours, hardly permitting them to enjoy the new sprouts of life and the fresh blossoms of beauty. The 'incense breathing morn' no longer claims our wakeful, worshipful attitude to it. The very first act of ablution we perform is to sit in austere grandeur to peruse the morning Daily. The final item of our day's routine is to finish our favourite author's longest novel before bedtime.

Reading has its value to the uninformed and ignorant. The literacy drive connotes everywhere the necessity of the average man to read and write. It is his passport to modern Democracy. The ability of the man in the street to read the cinema posters and broad headlines on news-sheets ensures him his suffrage. His vote is considered apotent instrument to express himself on the vital needs of life.

The educated graduate adds to his poor physique a defective mind and a blurred vision. His equipment in modern knowledge has made him a stranger to his own classics. Reading gives him little to supplement his true understanding of realities. The canker of print has eaten away his soul. He is not impressed with any source of knowledge outside a printed page. He is loath to spend an hour by himself in thought. The balmy breath of originality blows not on the citadel of his book-fed brain. Children and flowers share the same fate of neglect at his hands. His common sense leaves him as the water on the duck's .

A change must come over us. The craze for reading too much should yield place to a reverence for all life. The charm of naturalness and the art of living should be taught to every beginner in this world. The minimum of reading and the maximum of Life should be our watch-words in a new-world order.

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