Tag Archives: Reading
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A Room of One’s Own

26 Oct

a room for writing

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I Choose Beauty

4 Jul

I have been using Louise Hay’s 2012 “I Can Do It” calendar every day this year and the daily messages in the calendar never fail to transform my day in a positive way.

Today’s message, for example, is as follows:

I am free to be who I want to be, living my life as I choose.

As I sat down to do my morning writing, all my thoughts revolved around this beautiful and enlightening message. The following words flowed from my pen:

I choose travel.

I choose learning.

I choose writing.

I choose nature.

I choose yoga.

I choose walks.

I choose loving relationships.

I choose honest friendships.

I choose simplicity.

I choose hard work.

I choose challenge.

I choose games.

Image rights: The Guardian:The Observer

I choose creativity.

I choose beauty.

I choose health.

I choose reading.

I choose flowers.

I choose quietness.

Image rights: Glitter and Pearls

I choose movement.

I choose dance.

I choose photography.

I choose contemplation.

I choose taking my time.

I choose music.

 

What do YOU choose?

Confessions of a Book Abuser

3 Mar

I can hear them mocking me as I walk past.

“She only bought me because I was pretty.”

“She bought me because I have a good reputation.”

“She picked me because I won a prize.”

“She took me because I was cheap.”

These are my books, taunting me daily with the truth.

“She hasn’t even read any of us!” exclaims one.

“No, she just likes to have us on show,” puts in another.

“Well, I don’t mind. I’m better off on her shelves than in a box in the attic,” confesses a third.

“Good for you! But I’m adored by millions across the world and she hasn’t even read my blurb yet!” bursts out a fourth.

I admit it – I completely mistreat my books. Firstly, I buy them, giving them the (false) hope that they now have a caring new owner. I put them on my shelves and for the first week or so I look at them lovingly, giving them the (once again, false) impression that I will soon be taking them to the park, to bed or on holiday with me. I then leave them gathering dust for months, or years, and finally, realising that they are taking up too much space, give them away. I’m surprised that I haven’t been reported to the police yet, despite all these years of book-abuse.

I realised recently that the possession of so many unread books goes completely against my (or should I say, Dominique Loreau’s) Art of the Essential theory: keep a material possession only if you need it or love it.

At the moment, I own books because they look good on my shelves. They decorate my apartment and fill up empty space. They also do what all material possessions do – or, what we want our material possessions to do – they reflect some sort of trait in the owner. In the same way as people buy expensive watches to show to the world that they have a well-paid and important job, or a designer bag to show wealth, or an exclusive penthouse to show success, many people own large quantities of books to “prove” their intelligence.

Many of us put up hundreds of books on our shelves, in a visible place, to persuade ourselves and others that we are well-educated and well-cultured. After all, there’s not a more effective or quicker way of summarising our tastes, our beliefs and our persuasions than by a carefully-chosen book collection. Our visible book collections are a way of saying “I read and own (insert author/poet/philopher’s name), therefore I am (insert adjective)”.

In a lot of cases, a large book collection does not mean that its owner is a book-lover, but, on the contrary – a book-abuser. S/he uses books as mere tools to build up a reputation or a self-image, which is, in most cases, a false reflection of reality. For example, despite owning a few hundred books, I read little, and often feel that I have a very limited knowledge of literature.

In truth, knowledge and culture have nothing to do with the quantity of books we own and display. My grandparents, who have been avid readers their whole lives, only own about fifty books between them – they carry their favourite stories, ideas and quotes in their minds. What’s more, they keep the books that they do own in a closed cupboard; my grandma was shocked to hear that my own books stand in open shelves, where they “can gather dust and be damaged by sunlight”. To her, “books are for reading, not for displaying”.

I have decided that I shall not buy or borrow any books until I have read all those that are currently on my shelves. I shall keep a book only if I love it or need it for future reference, and I will use the library, not Amazon, whenever I am in need of inspiration and enlightenment. I shall use books for their original purpose – education, inspiration and entertainment – rather than the decorative purpose that they have been given.

My book-abusing days are over and my books shall gather dust no more!

 

***

Do you store unread or unnecessary books on your shelves?

Do you tend to keep books because they ‘look good’, even though they no longer serve you?

If you own very few books, what are you criteria for the ones you do choose to keep?

Follow Your Heart – Susanna Tamaro

14 Sep

“Be still and listen in silence to your heart. When it has spoken to you, rise up and follow it”, thus ends Susanna Tamaro’s international bestselling novel Follow Your Heart. Translated into eighteen languages, this is an epistolary novel in which an elderly Italian lady, fearing her imminent end, writes to her granddaughter in America. Alternating between diary and memoire, the old lady recounts her past to her only remaining living relative. Understanding that this will be the last communication that she has with her granddaughter, the old lady tells her story in the hope of being understood, and, in some way, forgiven, by her young descendant.

In Follow Your Heart, the protagonist tells her family’s story and explains the way in which her relatives, as well as contemporary Italian tradition, played a role in the formation of her character and her fate. She often gives wise reflections on life, as if ensuring to pass on to her granddaughter everything that she has learnt over the years: “Life is not a race but an archery contest. Saving time counts for nothing; what matters is to hit the bull’s-eye”. As we learn more about the old lady’s life through her honest narrative, we learn that most of her life’s tragedies arose from miscommunication and the fear to listen to one’s instinct over custom or duty.

Through this novel, Tamaro creates a fable whose philosophical lessons will stay with us long after we have finished the book. Tamaro captures a universal human essence in her writing, which is evident in the way that the protagonist’s many moral and metaphysical battles remind us of our own. However, having chosen the epistolary form, Tamaro sacrificed the ability to describe the old lady’s past life with more detail, and thus, more emotion. The only moments when we truly sympathise for the old lady and understand her fragile state is during the descriptive passages that capture her present lonely life in an empty winter home. As well as lacking in emotion, the narrative also suffers from a plot that is unable to provide any life lessons without the old lady’s regular words of wisdom.

Follow Your Heart is a novel that will provoke each reader to contemplate his or her own experiences. However, for me this book will remain no more than a source of wise quotes, a story that touched my mind, rather than my heart.

 

For information about Susanna Tamaro’s other work, click here.
For Susanna Tamaro’s biography on Wikipedia, click here.

Friends for Friendship, Not for Fear

7 Jun

For the past few weeks I have been surprisingly unsettled and it is only today that I found the most probable reason for this anxiety. Next week, three of my closest friends are coming to visit me in my new country, my new city and my new life. Amongst organising our long week-end, amongst looking forward to spending time with them and hearing their stories about the past four months, I am filled with fear.

What will they think of my new life? What will they think of the way I have changed? What will they think of my new views and my new reflections? What will they think of my new worries and my new problems?

I realised that my anxiety comes down to own fear: I am scared that my friends will not like my new life. Or, to put it straight, I am scared that my friends will not love the new me.

These are friends with whom I had my wildest days at university. These are the girls with whom I shared high heels and short dresses; they are the ones who curled my hair and did my make-up before a night out. With these girls I danced on tables and talked to too many strangers. These are the friends who would sit wide-eyed and open-mouthed while I told them about my week-end. These are the friends who are used to a girl whose every minute is filled with activity.

When they arrive next week, my friends will see a girl with barely any make-up on. They will hear a calm voice telling them about a life spent riding bikes, taking walks in parks, watching sunsets, picking wild flowers, going to local markets, taking photos of nature, writing in bed, reading on the balcony and imitating owls. They will find a girl that keeps to herself and is sometimes shy in social situations. They will find a girl that likes to share thoughts on life and death, friendship and love. They will find a girl that is the most confused, yet the most content she has ever been.

When I realised that the cause of my anxiety is a fear of rejection, I thought about how I could make the best of the week-end that I will spend with my friends, without letting insecurity ruin special moments. I immediately remembered a wonderful post I’d read about welcoming guests, and I realised that this is not a time for fear, but a time for love. These are precious days in which I can share my joy, laughter and positivity with people who mean the most to me. These are moments in which I should be giving and sharing, not taking. These are times when I am supposed to be being honest and open, and not trying to impress or Friends Hugging on Beachentertain. This is an opportunity to show my friends how much they mean to me, and not to expect proof of friendship from them.

Fear will most certainly always reside in my heart, but the best thing I can do is to respond with love. So I’ll stop fretting about the broken tiles in my bathroom and the ugly chest of drawers in the living room. I will stop worrying about not knowing the best restaurants or liveliest bars. I will forget about learning the city inside out or getting the best deals for days out. Instead, I will simply do my best to welcome my friends with open arms and give them my open heart.