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Reading the Lines

Early cave woman wasn’t content with her cave man’s rendition of "home" -- dark, blank walls that provided no ambience whatsoever. So, one day, when he grunted, she grunted back and soon there were linear drawings adorning their cave. These sketches were not exactly what she had in mind to brighten up their lives (animals and spears staring at her as she did her daily dirt floor tamping down), but they made her cave man happy. They gave him and his buddies the opportunity, whenever they got together, to retell of their great hunts and narrow escapes. Writing and story telling without an alphabet.

Boggles the Mind

How many stories, poems, articles and essays have been written since then using the alphabets of the world? My mind misfires to even try and imagine the number. Stories have been published in small, struggling-for-recognition publications, or sent out but returned as rejections, never to surface again. Poems have been written, carefully releasing emotions kept deep within the heart and soul, but never shown to anyone, as if the words were too close to that heart and soul to allow them to be completely released. And rant opinions have been penned, complaining that a company’s product failed to live up the its advertisment when two of its knobs fell off and the one that did remain wouldn’t turn. And then there are the countless essays and articles, researched and filed away in a cabinet, never to see the light of day again. How many pieces have been written throughout the course of history? It falls into the category of questions like, "How many tears have been shed or how many smiles have been formed. There’s no way of knowing.

A WORTHWHILE SKILL

Many, many written pieces, however, HAVE been accounted for and kept track of, much to the delight of readers everywhere. Reading is a joy and a pleasurable addiction for a great number of people. I admire these people -- those who can enthusiastically call themselves "readers", those who can curl up in a chair or stretch out on a sofa and become so engrossed in a piece of writing that they don’t emerge from their reading until several chapters later or the short story’s ending. I admire them because I’m not a reader. I’ve always disliked the task and never acquired the skill. I do read though...anything and everything...in bits and pieces...kind of like a TV channel-surfer clicking from one program to the next. Short attention span? Sometimes. Speed reader? Hardly. I’m simply not a reader. That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed reading at times. I have. It just doesn’t come naturally to me.

KICKING IT UP A NOTCH

Reading well is a skill. Reading well, comprehending what was read and being able to dissect it in order to find its strengths and weaknesses is an art. Reading well and being able to connect with the essence of a piece and then express that feeling and connection to its writer is an art. This art comes naturally to some, but has to be learned by others. I’m in that "others" grouping.

I’ve recently learned that a reader is incomplete until they’ve at least tried their hand at writing and a writer is incomplete if they’re not reading.

But, I’m not sure yet if I’m up to tackling the "Map of the World" by Jane Hamilton or the "Ender’s Game" by Orson Scott Card (both books have been on a desk, patiently waiting for my attention). And I’m not sure if I can return and attempt finishing "The Idiot" by Fyodor Dostoeyevsky yet. I’ve begun reading that book so many times and left it mid-read, that I’m certain the main character, Myshkin, feels as if he’s been experiencing the same phenomenom as Bill Murray in "Ground Hog Day". Poor guy! Maybe someday.

In the meantime, though, perhaps those of us who shy away from reading will continually push the word, line and page limits until one day we can retell some of the great stories we’ve visited. Or recite a few lines from some of the poems we happen to have discovered. It’s more than likely going to be worth the effort. Besides, we have to make that cave woman proud.

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