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Odes

Ode to Reading

Reading is access to the multiverse. There are so many thoughts by so many people through the ages, and reading is the magical medium by which we can access them. It is one of the most powerful ways to gain information and learn about the world around you. Reading can be an escape, a diversion, work, entertainment, relief from boredom, a way to connect with a loved one, a way to empower your mind. When you read, there is an incredible amount of complexity to the very perception and comprehension of words, yet it can all come together in the most effortless and simplest of thoughts.

The topics that you can read about are as varied as the authors that put their thoughts into words. Everyone can find something they truly enjoy reading, and it is easy to find friends through similar taste in books. Reading is one of the most prized skills in the world, so much so that the ability to read is required and expected in what we term good education. There is a huge emphasis and investment of time and resources into learning to read and creating things that can be read. Reading is one of the best ways to build your vocabulary and general knowledge. It can range from the extremely useful to made up words that only common aficionados will understand, but it always increases the knowledge you possess.

It is one of the best ways to pick up a foreign language, and it is far easier for you to concentrate on reading something at your own pace and leisure than the pressures of deciphering what someone has just said. Reading in a foreign language gives you a greater insight into the thoughts and culture of that language as there will always be puns and artistic expressions that cannot be translated by the very arbitrary nature of vocabulary assignment.

You can watch the evolution of thought through history, or you can cherish a truth so profound it has survived centuries unaltered. You can learn from the experience of all of humankind and be spared the mishaps that they have encountered, take counseling when you run into tough times, avoid having to reinvent the wheel, or simply take entertainment and amusement from the cleaver and funny thoughts of others.

My favorite genera for reading fall into fantasy and non-fiction. I love fantasy for many reasons. It is full of dragons, my favorite creatures, and magic, my favorite wish, for one. There is also a great pleasure for me in learning about new worlds that people have created. Among those, the magic systems are wide and varied, yet they include a myriad of variations on true-name and glyph magics. These very systems of magic are a statement of the power of words and reading and writing. Fantasy also offers both escape and analysis of the real world.

The escape comes from moving to entirely different planets or thinking about an alternate reality in which the world we inhabit is just a little more magical. You do not have to think of any trials or tribulations from your life and can lose yourself in a world that most people will never trod nor consider. You can explore worlds of wonder and joy, move with adventuring heroes and celebrate their victories. You can envision the characters in a light all your own and find near-friendship among them, your long lost twin, your best friend, the person you wish you were, your hero, your very self in the spectacular unrealities of fantasy. You can imagine yourself in the world and relive all the wonder of what it would be like to be the mage or befriend and ride a dragon.

The analysis of the world comes from the themes common to all worlds and people. Fantasy allows you to take a look at such things as love or despair without also attaching a real-world example to it. In reading some realistic fiction, I often found myself taking the side of the antagonist and detesting in some ways the antagonists. The issue I ran into was that when the antagonists were named as real-world sources, a small amount of that antagonism naturally falls into thoughts about those people despite knowing full well the work I was reading was fictional.

Fantasy, however, avoids this problem entirely as the antagonistic peoples and races are aggrandized and stereotypical. More importantly, they are not attached directly to anything in the worlds that deserves to have our understanding and respect. It is a much more tranquil look at discrimination in the interaction of elves and men than in the often tragic examples of history. You can then learn of the detriments to discrimination and hate without experimenting and detracting from the world around you. Honestly, it is a way I avoid depression. The lessons are the same and can be applied before hurting ensues. Non-fiction on the other hand teaches you of the world itself. Ideally, it is as unbiased as possible, simply looking at what is rather than as in a fantasy of what should be.

This leads to my favorite non-fiction really being text books. The amount of information you can learn from a textbook is vast. It gives you a framework to then build on as you wander the wonders of the real-world. You can better understand how the world works, how people communicate, how they think, and this again comes back to reading. There is an infinite number of interesting facts and information to be found, and often each text seems to have endless information of which learning even a portion is one of the greatest satisfactions. It is why reading is my favorite activity, why I do not own a TV, and why I will spend more hours contiguously reading than any other activity. It strengthens my mind and relaxes it, and those are both beautiful things.