This I Believe

Wallace - Baltimore, Maryland
Entered on May 6, 2007
Age Group: 65+

THE JOY OF READING

I BELIEVE THE JOY OF READING HAS SAVED ME FROM THE HYPNOTIC GLARE OF THE TUBE AND PUT ME IN CHARGE OF MY OWN ENTERTAINMENT. A BOOK DOESN’T HAVE TO BE PLUGGED IN AND THERE ARE NO COMMERCIALS.

EVEN NOW I CAN REMEMBER THE MAGIC I FELT AS A SMALL BOY WHEN MY FIRST SCANNING OF THE SIMPLE WORDS IN TOM SWIFT AND HIS AIRSHIP SENT IMAGES STREAMING THROUGH MY HEAD. LATER CAME THE LONGER WORDS IN THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, WHICH I DECODED BY SOUNDING OUT THE SYLLABLES. I CAN STILL HEAR THOSE MELODRAMATIC VOICES: “ MR. HOLMES, THEY WERE THE FOOTPRINTS OF A GIGANTIC HOUND!”

SINCE THEN BOOKS HAVE BEEN MY STEADY FRIENDS, MY REFUGE ON A TRAIN OR IN A DENTIST’S WAITING ROOM . THEY HAVE HELPED ME FORGET ABOUT THAT PARKING TICKET OR RUDE ENCOUNTER IN A SUPERMARKET CHECKOUT LINE. IF I AM INTERRUPTED BY MY CAT DEMANDING TO BE FED, I CAN EASILY PICK UP WHERE I LEFT OFF.

BIOGRAPHIES AND MEMOIRS HAVE ENLARGED MY OWN LIFE BY READING ABOUT SOMEONE ELSES’S, LEARNING FROM THAT PERSON’S SMART MOVES OR MISTAKES. THE RECENT BIOGRAPHY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN, BY DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, SHOWS HOW WILY ABE DISARMED HIS POLITICAL RIVALS BY MAKING THEM MEMBERS OF HIS CABINET, AT THE SAME TIME USING THEIR TALENTS– A MOVE WORTHY OF MACHIAVELLI. THE INSPIRATIONAL CHAPTER IN ALAN BENNETT’S UNTOLD STORIES DESCRIBES HIS BOUT WITH CANCER AND THE IMPORTANCE OF AVOIDING SELF-PITY.

HISTORIES HAVE ALLOWED ME TO WATCH TRIUMPHS AND TRAGEDIES UNFOLD ON A LARGER STAGE . THE MANY BOOKS ABOUT WAR HAVE TAUGHT ME MUCH, AND NOT JUST ABOUT STRATEGIES AND TACTICS. BARBARA TUCHMAN’S GUNS OF AUGUST IS A HIGHLY READABLE ACCOUNT OF THE MISUNDERSTANDINGS AMONG THE MAJOR EUROPEAN NATIONS THAT LED UP TO WORLD WAR I, A LESSON STILL FOR ALL OF US.

THE WORLD OF FICTION IS LIMITLESS AND HAS TRANSPORTED ME THROUGH TIME AND SPACE. EVEN REREADING AN OLD FAVORITE HAS PRODUCED NEW IMAGES AND DEEPER MEANINGS THE SECOND TIME AROUND. MARK TWAIN’S HUCKLEBERRY FINN IS NOT JUST A JUVENILE ADVENTURE STORY ABOUT HUCK AND THE RUNAWAY SLAVE JIM RAFTING DOWN THE MISSISSIPPI BUT ABOUT YOUNG HUCK’S GROWING AWARENESS OF JIM’S HUMANITY.

I BELIEVE THAT WITH A GOOD BOOK IN HAND, I MAY BE ALONE BUT AM NEVER LONELY– A HEALTHY ALTERNATIVE TO THE FLICKERING TUBE.