Everything you believe at this moment is the result of what you heave heard, read and seen. Your ideas about religion, your ideas about sex, your ideas about what you should accomplish by the time you are thirty.
In other words, everything you believe is the result of what you have experienced. “Heard” and “seen” are verbs that call attention to the senses, so I suppose I should also include “smelled,” “touched” and “tasted” as the other helpers that inform your everyday decisions, from debating whether or not to go to grad school to stepping into a voting booth and closing the curtains behind you.
Five senses aside, the previously mentioned word “read” stands alone.
On our own, we see what is ahead of us, as far as we can gaze without our vision halting at an obstacle. We smell what enters the room. We feel what we press our fingers against, and we taste what we take to our tongues. When someone speaks to us, we hear – if we are listening to what they say, rather than the sounds.
Because reading another’s perspective allows us to inhabit a different body in a different place with a different reserve of experiences, and go for a walk with them, we are guided through the author’s thought processes – two of us, the reader and the writer, able to sit in one mind. An impossibility in physical life, but a truth brought to us by the writer’s willingness to share words, which are thoughts caught in a net and carefully arranged on paper in squiggly black lines.
A good book, article or essay teaches us to think in a new way, or internalize something we have never been exposed to before. Imagine if you were to meet with five experts a day: one having just flown in from taking notes in the Middle East, another a famous essayist back from the dead for the evening, and the last three from all different walks of life, fluent in ideas that either never occurred to you, or you never had time to pursue.
Well, while the dinner party is just a concrete example of what you can enjoy abstractly, my point is that their knowledge is available to you. Do you take advantage of it?
The greatest thing about this moment in time is that we have access to so much information. Libraries are free to everyone in America. And inside each library are multiple digital libraries, much smaller at first glance than the high-ceilinged, shelf-lined rooms, but infinite in reading material due to the network that surges within them. Someone who is strapped for cash can learn just as much as someone who is earning a six-figure salary. So there is no excuse.
For those of us who have smartphones, we hold the world in the palm of a hand. So if you could learn about anything, why wouldn’t you?
Hunter Wright is a junior majoring in creative writing.