In reading, we examine our own mind. The act of reading is meditative, contemplative. The act of reading is private and solitary. You can be reading in a crowded café and you lose yourself in reading those pages of words that mesmerize you.
In reading, you stumble on thoughts like your own but are these really your thoughts? Perhaps they are thoughts you never knew you had or they become the thoughts you resonate with just because you think you get them. The words resonate with you and you wonder if the universe is having a conversation with you. It is particularly uncanny when some fleeting thoughts happen to flash through your mind and you chance upon the words that are dancing before you when you are in front of your laptop, and certain writings or essays pop up. I must be looking for them, that is why they appear, I tell myself.
If you read to pass the time and keep yourself occupied, there is no urgency. You can sip a coffee and look at the landscape around you, time will slip by stealthily just the same. Perhaps you are reading to find answers to all the questions you are curious about. But does it matter if there is just so much that you do not know? The thing is the more I read the less I know. I definitely read for pleasure and somehow if reading helps in some ways to connect the dots, that is merely incidental and a delight.
Perhaps in reading, you are trying to get to know your true self. And I think it is important to be introspective and know who you really are and your real intents if you can get to the bottom of them.
The world can only get better if we begin with ourselves and cultivate more awareness about what is going on in our heads. The Self Illusion by Bruce Hood, a neuroscientist and Stumbling On Happiness by Daniel Gilbert, a psychologist write about the deluded mind. Julian Barnes and Patrick Modiano are amongst my favourite writers whose fictions are centred on how unreliable our memories can be. Life is often dreamlike and as the saying goes, life imitates art and life is fiction.
We cannot trust our mind because thoughts are fluid and our memories may be distorted. Our state of mind certainly changes from time to time and our perceptions of why we do what we do may also change. Our narratives may also change so that we can live with ourselves. If we do not know our true self, we will always have a mind full of conflicts.
Professor Bruce M. Hood argues that there is no self as the self is largely determined by those around us and that the self is constructed over the course of childhood by the powerful influence of our parents and those around us. Dr Hood wrote in his book, “The Self Illusion”: “Nature has built into humans the capacity to learn and to learn very quickly from others. It is not only doting adults who focus their attention on their offspring; each baby is wired to pay attention to others. It is how our species has evolved a remarkable ability to transfer knowledge from one generation to the next and no other animal on the planet can do this as well as humans. But do babies know who they are? Babies have conscious awareness but does a baby have a sense of self yet? We cannot know for certain but I suspect not. Beginning the process of creating the self -illusion requires early social interactions. ” According to Dr Hood, not only do we humans learn from others about the world around us, we also learn to become a self and we come to discover who we are through the process of watching others and trying to understand them.While we are our brains, which create our sense of self , we readily conform to the will of the group of people we mix with. The people we mix with are usually people we are attracted to and we are attracted to people whom we think we share the same values with . Our brains grow as we learn to cope and negotiate the best path through the social landscape.
Dr Hood wrote in“The Self Illusion”: “ If the self illusion is correct, social networking sites will continue to expand in popularity and will increasingly shape the sense of who we are for the next generation and those that follow. So long as we remain a social animal, social networks in one form or another are here to stay. This is because most of us want to be noticed….”
As we know technology is the double-edged sword thus we must use it wisely.
Reading does help me to find my centre. At times I find my brain works like a maze. I need to be aware of my thoughts so as not to lose myself in a labyrinth. I believe in serendipity and magic.
Le Petit Prince written by Antoine de Saint- Exupéry is a timeless allegory. I revisit different parts of the story from time to time and every time I think I gain a little better understanding of the parable. The following quotes from the book remain my favourites.
On ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
One can see clearly only with the heart.
Fais de ta vie un rêve, et d’un rêve, une réalité ―Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Make your life a dream and the dream a reality.