Cycles of learning and doing

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By Stella A. Estremera

Spider’s web

Saturday, December 14, 2013

ONE question booklovers like us hate most when clueless non-readers walk into our library is: “Have you read all these?”

Hold your disbelief, folks. Most of them, yes, several of them, no. That is how it is to every booklover, there will always be books that has not been read, yet.

I’m a bookworm, had been since I learned to read, and that was before I even entered school.

I was reading my elder siblings’ “This is our family”, the textbook for first graders of our generation, even before I entered kindergarten. How I did, I don’t know. I just did. No one seemed to have thought that was outstanding, but I remember reading this book over and over again, aloud. Little show-off me.

I still am, book lover that is, not show-off.

But reading, like many endeavors, is just part of the whole tapestry of my life. Thus, it comes in seasons and for reasons. What and when, I cannot predict but will quickly recognize the feeling when it’s there.

Let’s just say that there will be long episodes when I go without finishing a book, and then will come a season where I do nothing but. Much as I love to read, you can never make me suffer through the tiny prints and thickness of Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged if I am not in that season. I went through that season around four years ago and read through both books (which I already read in college but forgot how thick it was and how small the prints were) in just a month. Those who know these two books will also know that was a big feat, especially for us who need the assistance of reading glasses. It has almost 800 pages in paperback format and size. Actually, I just picked up the books again from the store when I noticed that the editions displayed were for Ayn Rand’s 50th anniversary as best-seller.

I first read it as a freshman architecture student, since its ‘bida’ is Howard Roark, an individualist architect who would rather be poor and unknown than compromise his vision. I found empathy in this fictional character, although at that time, I only read the book as a school requirement. Again, for those who have been bookworms for a long time, there are different manners of reading a book, among them is reading as a school requirement. But we’re digressing…

Back to reading… I’m in that phase now. The season has started. Is it because of Christmas? No. It’s part of a cycle.

Reading, especially my type of reading, is really for learning. (I get my trash literature every night, love stories and stuff that girls read with a sure happy ending no matter what, you know. I don’t regard that as reading. It’s entertainment, like watching a movie to feel good and not to think), I enjoy them but don’t expect to learn anything from reading them.

Thus, the past months I’ve been chomping on inspirational books and those that twist and turn your brains, like what my favorite author Nassim Nicholas Taleb does.

Taleb the author of The Black Swan is a mathematician, trader, and philosophical essayist, who is pushing the random theory. He got me at The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (2007), his first book, and I had been trying to follow his books hence (I’ve missed a couple, considering the type of titles we get down here), and thus only have aside from The Black Swan (both editions), The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms (2010), and his latest, Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder.

Now if you become a follower of a man who chides business executives who plan every year and yet are almost always hit from behind, very badly at that, by market crashes, disasters, and similar events unprepared, and barely able to make sense, you will sooner than not get in trouble with your boss. I did, big time. I didn’t mind. I still read on and learned and lived my type of philosophy.

I’m on the end parts of Seth Godin’s The Icarus Deception, and I say, this is among his best if not the best; each page is worth reading over again, which makes for slow progress. But again, I don’t mind.

Reading is like food. You can gobble it down because you have starved yourself and are now about to faint, you nibble it because you’re in the habit of nibbling, you chew it while reading a newspaper or whatever else you can do while chewing, or you savor it.

There are books you gobble, mindlessly chew, nibble, and savor. I am in the savoring stage and I love it.

It’s the season to replenish. To fill one’s mind with new thoughts and ideas or reinforce your beliefs with new ideas, after a long season of all work and nearly no play.

The past months have been unimaginably busy, and I thought I already knew what a busy life was. The past months made me realize, I haven’t seen the busiest yet. But with the coming of the Christmas season, people seem to be in a holiday mood as well, and work has tapered down to the regular busy rate; the perfect time to read, replenish one’s brain, and just savor the thoughts that is brought about by a good book.

With this I end my Sunday ruminations and lift this quote from Godin’s “The Icarus Deception”: “When you give up ownership of what you make in exchange for allowing a stranger or a critic or the masses to judge you, you have walked away from your humanity.”

Chew on that, better yet, savor it. We’ll tackle Taleb much later, he’s the type whose words need to be properly masticated to make sense and nourish the mind.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on December 15, 2013.


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