“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies… The man who never reads, lives only one.”
The quote above is one of my favourite, as I’ve always considered how interesting it is, particularly in London, that we have such diversity of race, wealth and life experiences all around us, but that each individual only gets to live their life.
I don’t have to live the life of a pauper, or get to live the life of a prince. I don’t live as the child of a single parent, or share the experience of growing up with a brother. I only know my life. I know what it is to be born and raised in Streatham, South London (the best place in the world). I know what it is to have sisters (four in fact). I know what it is to grow up in a Christian home. I know what it is to work in a Youth Centre, Bookshop, Primary, and Secondary school. I know what it’s like to get married, and what it is like to have a child. But I know, in truth, very few things, and what I don’t know is vastly more.
Of course, this is true for all of us. We all live one life. That is, we live our life, and no one else’s. And yet, isn’t it true, we crave an experience that’s different, even if only for a while? Even if we love the life we live, even if we truly appreciate all our blessings, there’s something within that imagines what a different life is like. A different situation. A different world. And yet, perhaps we don’t want to exchange it for our own. We just want a glimpse. A touch. A taste.
This is, after all, why children play make-believe, regardless of the lives they live. It’s why we go on holiday, watch movies, and yes – the ultimate point I’m getting to – it’s why we read.
Through biographies, we experience lives we’ve never lived. Through reading history, we learn of towns and countries; of a world we’ve never lived in. And then fiction, ah fiction! My favourite of all – for in this, we live lives no one has lived, we experience experiences no one has had. We travel to unknown lands, defeat mighty beasts, and conquer our greatest fears.
So is reading just a hobby? A temporary escape from life? Indeed, it is these things, and yet it is so much more. If as mentioned, by reading, one can gather such a range of experiences, such a variety of cultures, such a wealth of knowledge of past, present and potential for the future – how much broader the mind will be! How much more understanding, empathetic and sympathetic we will be. How much more knowledgeable.
So read on! Read all that you can. Live many lives, see many things, learn until you can learn no more; for all of this is possible from the comfort of your sofa – with a cup of tea in one hand – and a book in the other. 🙂