January 15, 2012
There is something surreal about books. They can take you to places you’ve never been. You can learn lessons from them. They can make you feel things that you’ve never felt before. They can make you dream. They can inspire you. They can bring you purpose.

But what happens when the book is put down? What happens when the last page has turned? Suddenly, it’s as if you don’t know if what just happened really happened. Are the feelings still real if they were based off of an event not in one’s life? Or is reading about something enough to put that event in your life, to make it a part of your identity? Perhaps it’s the extent of what one feels that makes a thing true or not. In this way, perhaps some books are more real than reality. For instance, my summer spent backpacking is much more real to me than reading some articles in the school paper, yet some written works such as The Fountainhead are much more real to me than a polite conversation at a party. Depth gives truth to an experience, be it a first-hand experience in physical reality or a second-hand one through a book.

It all takes balance. Just as one should not live entirely vicariously through video games, movies, or even books, one should not spend all of one’s time entirely absorbed in one’s own physical reality. We must dream. We must be inspired. We must find our own truth at some point, and the road to finding it may not be solely in our physical realms of reality. Books, the voice of others’ experiences and dreams, can sometimes act as small candles of illumination that may cast a truth into a flickering light. We must read and understand these truths before the page goes dim. This is what books can do. Surreal or not, they are critical, perhaps even because of this surreal quality. Books are what can give us passage to another world, the world of shadows, mystery, and hidden truth. However, we must not forget to read our own lives with the same amount, although not necessarily the same quality, of awe and wonder. Do not read to live nor live to read; read and live. Live and read.

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