MC's Whispers

Whispering Silences

Archive for the tag “reading”

Filtering our focus

In a time of rapidly evolving channels of information, is the problem that we know too much, or that we think we do? We’re constantly trying to keep up with the tide, but it seems that something else beats us to the news. There is always something happening we know little to nothing about, or worse – we only know part of.

We hoard information from so many sources for later. Because there’s just too much to read out there, and there’s little time to do it in. No matter how fast you skim read, haven’t you found yourself skipping articles or emails, or saving them for later, if it’s more than three scrolls long? In this busy contemporary lifestyle, we need to get to the point quickly. We’ve become so easily distracted that things – people and conversations included – need to gain our focus fast (and keep it), otherwise they’re considered tiresome and unworthy of our attention.

It may be dubbed “first-world problems”, but let’s face it, this is the environment we live in. We need to adjust to survive.

This acute article that came my way from my inspiring boss who knows me all too well, resonated with me from the very first sentence. If you’re a reader, you know to the bone what it’s like to hoard reading material in all forms – paper and digital. You also apprehend what it feels like to tell yourself you’ll read it later, but instead keep elongating that list that never seems to get shorter or even at the least done. Perhaps the real problem though is not that we hoard too much, but rather that we fail to filter right. It is indeed unfeasible to read everything we would like; a lifetime would not suffice for that. But shouldn’t we be able to prioritise what’s important?

Like the people and things we devote our attention to, prioritising is important in maintaining a healthy, productive and sane lifestyle.

Just think about this: when you’re younger you usually make a habit of remembering everyone’s birthday, sending out celebratory wishes and attending as many parties as you can. But as you grow older, you begin to filter out people, keeping in your social circle those who matter, who enrich your life and who make you smile. Even if you do remember certain birthdays, you choose to celebrate those of value. And that’s what makes them more special. Because they belong to the selected list of few exceptional people.

Shouldn’t we be doing that with everything we dedicate our time and attention to? Otherwise, what’s the point, really?

Blue lenses to another world

© CEAyr

He had recently gotten new blue glasses because he had misplaced – ergo lost – the previous ones.  She was so excited to see them left on an open book one afternoon.

She had been trying to get him to read forever.

Readers do that – they try to insert everyone in their magical world. That place where you can escape to from anywhere at any time. Where you can, temporarily at least, forget about the things troubling you. Where you can raise your mind and glimpse into another world, another perspective, another universe. And you always come out wiser, sometimes even bolder.

Also part of Friday Fictioneers

The bleeding of a pen

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People who write share a secret. They know how to view the world in different lenses. They think too much, overanalyse, create scenarios that may hardly correspond to reality, and feel too deeply. They have a vivid and often wild imagination. But often, that is exactly what helps them survive.

The best part about meeting other authors, is that you realise you are not alone in your weirdness. Authors are exquisite people. They shine a light on aspects you never thought of before someone pointed them out to you.

They are the ones who put words on a page, coherent ones, linked together and invite you to form the images in your head. Every book is just that. But every reader has a different playout created in their mind. And that is precisely the magic a pen can fashion.

Writers are not as competitive as people of other professions are. They will urge you to write. They will inspire you. To believe that you can do it; that you can accomplish whatever you imagine. Because they know what it feels like to sit alone in front of a screen, fighting with and for words. They have gone through the anguish of trying to promote their work for the masterpiece they believe it is. They have faced their demons of fear, of not being good enough. And they understand. They know that you need to write something first to come to believe that you can actually achieve your goals.

The best thing about meeting a writer is that you gain an insight on why and how they write. Sometimes the reason is the simple fact that they were bored and wrote a book. Other times it is because they wanted to say something. They want to make readers think, to enter a world that is unknown; to escape a reality that is sometimes better than we imagine if only we see it in a positive light. But every writer wants something they never admit: to make the reader feel they are not alone.

A book is the best company you can have. Because it opens up worlds you never knew existed and expands your mind more than anything else ever can.

A woman’s silence

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She would often wander in a world no-one could understand. The real world made no sense anymore. She would retreat in the attic and later in the bedroom or living room. She would watch the time run by as she lost herself in books or let her mind gaze at TV series. She didn’t care anymore if she was alone. Now, it was something she actually looked forward to.

In the cold winter days, she would sit on a couch wrapped in a warm blanket with the company of her fluffy soft-toys. In their big glimmering eyes, she would find comfort. In there, she saw the reflection of who she wanted to be; who she was striving to become; who few would appreciate or, even more, understand.

Perhaps that was what was most disappointing. That no matter how much she explained her point of view, hardly anyone would see it. It is easy to put the blame for everything on someone else; it is even easier to dismiss all their views as wrong simply because they don’t agree with yours.People only listen to what they want to hear. And whatever you say, they will only focus on what they think is important, rendering everything else unsaid. She was tired of having to repeat herself so often, and not being heard. She was not understood. And that was perhaps worse than not being appreciated.

So, she drifted away. She had grown weary of trying to change a world that so adamantly refused to do so. She stopped insisting. Her grandfather once told her that people should fear a woman’s silence, for a woman who stops moaning and more so talking is one who has simply given up. A woman’s silence is her loudest cry. But few can truly realise that. Even fewer are bold enough to do something about it.

It’s easy to keep demanding that everyone else changes. The real courage is to admit that you need to change too. And to do it.

The lure of a bookstore

https://s26162.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/bookstore-slide-2MCD-superJumbo.jpgFor Martia, walking into a bookstore was like walking into a magic realm. In the words of Jen Campbell, “you see, bookshops are dreams built of wood and paper. They are time travel and escape and knowledge and power. They are simply put, the best of places”. In fact, she could hardly ever walk into a bookstore and not leave without buying something.

Martia’s life revolved around books. She loved reading, wrote a blog about books and worked as an editor in a publishing company. She lived and breathed books.

Yet, ironically, she could not find the words to describe how much she adored these tomes of paper. As environmentally-unfriendly they were, there was nothing like the smell that transpired when flicking the pages of a new book. Used books also held their secrets gripped within their pages. Because no one could read a book and remain the same person.

Martia had learned to appreciate even more people who read. Not on an electronic device, but the actual paper copy. Books, she said, made our minds sharper, life more exciting, they lift your spirits, lower your stress levels and make your heart more compassionate. Books always had something new to say. And there is a book on almost anything by almost anyone. What you should be careful to do is pick out the right copy – find the book that says something, in language worthy of the paper it is printed on, that makes you think and makes you want to change things.

“A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking” – Jerry Seinfeld

Knowing One’s Own

Book cover NK.jpegThere is a special connection that ties people who write with each other. More so, when they share similar views and may recommend readings to each other. It is not often that I embark on a personal rant, but this is about a person who is more than my employer or my co-worker; he is my mentor and the person who always has some exciting book / author to recommend and some fascinating viewpoint to share.

Knowing One’s Place is Nicholas Karides’ first book, published in December 2017. It is a book of memoirs: those recited by the writer and those ignited in the reader. When I first asked him why he was writing a book, he told me it was because he wanted to put all his notes from his journals into some logic order. I was intrigued, as I am well aware at how his scrapbook-snippets consist of historical milestones, incidents of history that we quickly forget until someone reminds us of them again. His book is precisely what it promised to be: “Essays on journalism, diplomacy, and football”. It talks about the controversial state of journalism in today’s digital area of constant reporting from all sorts of media – at anywhere at anytime; it discusses the diminishing traits of bold world leaders in a time when everyone can rise to power (given the right connections); and it shares thoughts about a rapidly changing world with its never-ceasing developments. More than that, the book offers a greater insight and a different perspective into the place in which you were born and bred and which you shamefully come to realise you know little about. Cyprus features a great deal in the book, and it is the tool through which you get to know the writer a bit better, but also this European country that, albeit small, has suffered a lot and is still caught in the crossroads of history. As with every book, you appreciate every thing a little bit more when you are aware of the circumstances being discussed, and when you know the person holding the pen.

This is a book that is extremely well researched, calling upon a list of prestigious sources, well justified and above all really well written with the perfect dose of wit. Every word is important. And it manages to grasp your attention and maintain it until the very last page.

It’s a book about how we must value the time and world we live in, but also about the significance of education and the need to keep it alive. It serves as a reminder to constantly contemplate the circumstances that surround us, to reflect, and to engage in opportunities that may help us improve, both ourselves and the places we live in.

The book on the shelf

http://onlinesalesstepbystep.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/book-on-a-shelf.jpgIt stood there longing to be read. But instead its pages crinkled with time as they gathered dust. If it was ever opened now, the reader would be able to see the passing of time imprinted on the yellowing of the paper. Yet it remained on the shelf, unopened, unread.

Potential readers passed by its location daily. Their eyes always passed over it but none focused on it for more than a second. And that was never enough to grab their attention.

Books on either side of it were removed and returned frequently, but that persisted always firmly in place.

The book had now aged. But its content was always timely. If only someone chose to pick it up and open it, they would experience the wisdom in its pages diffuse into their mind. A closed book is hardly of any use. Just like a parachute, it works better when opened. When read. When understood. When applied.

You never know the inspiration and the knowledge you may find, unless you actually fall upon it, by choice or by chance.

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Shelf

Fine Art, Flawed Artists

books1There are times when you come across a book that you cannot put down, not because of its plot or fictional narrative, but because it is so inspiring you want to learn more. When such books are recommended by people who know you well enough to safely bet that it will enrapture you, then you are certain to read through the entire book in less than a couple of days.

Clive James’ Latest Readings is such a book.

Masterfully written it is witty, funny, absorbing, entertaining, inspiring. The flow of language is so effortless that it can be read in a gulp. There is a uniqueness in every line, blooming with such an exquisite narrative, that it makes you feel as if the author is sitting right there conversing with you.

Although an esteemed literary critic, in this specific book, James does more than simply review the books he read. He reviews a lifetime of reading books. Because he artfully combines his opinion of the book’s content, with its background epoca and its context, associating everything with current events – from the rise of ISIS, to the digitization of the written word, to Bill Cosby’s trial, even to recent TV series and movies. And all of this is combined with a telling of his own state (he was diagnosed with terminal leukemia) and the fact that he was melting away, or, like he says, “slipping into time”.

This is an illuminating book in many ways, because, although some books and writers may not be familiar to you, he will awake in you the urge to read more. He will illuminate the dream of having a large room with huge double doors opening into an entire library full of books. One that contains bookcases rising up from the ground to the ceiling, so complete that you need an incorporated sliding ladder to move across them. A library so full, that you would eventually need to smuggle books in and hide them, as he does, being under embargo for bringing in more books. And he encourages you to love books, despite the rapid conversion into the “rational solution” of a digital form, as “being book crazy is an aspect of love, and therefore scarcely rational at all”.

But he will also inspire you to become a better author in order to produce the book you dream to write. He urges you to be open to self-criticism, because “unless you can criticize yourself, you are not a writer”. He even calls out to journalists themselves, a dying craft of our times, stressing that “journalism is the first draft of formal history”.

He explores the background stories of the writers themselves, opening up details into their lives that you never knew. One of the most memorable phrases in the book is that “fine art is usually work of flawed people”, giving you hope that no matter your troubles, you can always produce something great.

His ode to Ernest Hemingway is beautiful, particularly noting that “he was a giant who dreamed of being a giant” and was an author able to deliver such a convincing narrative, such that “his way of putting things was a transformative illusion”. His closing reference to Florence Nightingale is also both touching and enlightening.

What is most astounding throughout the book is that, despite his illness, James never gives up. He doesn’t abandon his wit and sharp intellect, nor does he stop reading, expanding both his knowledge and his world. And that, is perhaps, the most inspiring aspect of it all. After all, as he so deftly states, “If you don’t know the exact moment when the lights will go out, you might as well read until they do.

Paper books or e-readers?

books vs ebooksWith so many things to read nowadays, we often get lost not only in the material but in the medium of reading. You see people reading constantly and everywhere – paper books, magazines, newspapers, on tablets, phablets, e-readers, phones. Choosing the right medium is not simply a matter of preference, it is also of convenience. So what do you prefer, a paper book or an e-reader?

Don’t get me wrong, I love my Kindle (for many more reasons beyond its practicality), but there is just something else present in a real paper book that cannot be replaced by any screen. And it is not just the excitement of getting your hands on a new book every once in a while (because, really, how many times are you going to buy an e-reader?).

In an era that sees the rapid rise of a “screen culture” we often need to take time off any and every screen. It is just not natural. And it is unhealthy being stuck in front of a screen all day. Get your hands on a book, flick through its pages, smell that odour of print and paper, rub the rough yellow sheets between your fingers, roll your hands over the indentations of the cover, mark the page you left off, feel the agony, work and inspiration that were involved in making that book, and let the magic radiating from each and every page carry you away.

Of course, you can still read the same book on an e-reader, but this digital medium just won’t allow you to completely engage in the relationship between book and reader. Sure, it is more convenient in many ways – for example, e-books are cheaper than paper ones; you can carry your e-reader anywhere at any time, having with you an abundance of books all at once; and quite significantly, you can read anything anywhere surreptitiously without being afraid of being judged, as it is impossible to see what you’re reading and can thus saturate your curiosity for a range of genres.

Reading a book is not just a past-time. It is an experience. A journey into another world. It is a way of getting lost without even moving from your couch. And it is one that will enrich your life.

So in essence, it doesn’t really matter where you read something, just as long as you immerse yourself fully into it. You’ll never regret it. (Unless it is a really bad book, but that’s another story).

Room to write

writing roomErnest Hemingway had said that “there is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed”. That is really all it takes. To let your soul pour out at your fingertips. To allow your emotions to surface and manifest themselves into words, into stories, into prose on paper.

All you need to do is allow yourself to breathe and feel.

To feel every single thing that is cornered in your psyche. To be able to sit in silence and type. (Or write with a pen or pencil if you are more traditional).

What you really need though is room. Like Virginia Wolf said, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write”. Money, for the obvious reasons that you need to be able to afford just sitting there typing, and room because you need the space to simply be. To accept the feelings that are overwhelming you, that are weighing down on your shoulders. To permit them to flood out of your heart like a torrent during flood season.

To have the room to be able to lock yourself into. To sit on a big executive chair that wraps around your back and spine like a comforting bear and reassures you that everything will be fine. Just type. Just go on and say whatever is on your mind.

The key in being able to write is being able to accept that the words you form are a small part of your soul breaking away from inside of you. It is allowing yourself to be vulnerable and not minding that the world is authorized a glimpse at your pain. All sad people write. It is an outlet for the pain. Sylvia Plath was told that after rain everyone suddenly is flooded with literary inspiration. The point, however, is how true, how deep, how emotional, how exposed you can get.

Because think of the person who will read. They will want to be able to feel precisely that emotion. The pain, the anguish, the heartbeat, the torment, the painstaking ordeal. We all want the assurance that we are not alone in whatever it is we are going through. That is primarily why we read. That, and to get away from it all. From our own troubles into another world.

Imagine being able to do that through reading.

Now think of the power you could possess if you could write too.

If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads. Or better yet, date a girl who writes.” ―Rosemarie Urquico

Also part of Daily Prompt: Writing Room

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