I collect strange books.
I haven’t always. It’s only been for the last two years or so that I’ve considered myself a serious reader, trying to set aside at least half an hour a day to a growing stack of esoteric tomes I have on various shelves around my home.
Mind you, for several years out of high school I wouldn’t touch most books with a yardstick. It wasn’t that I had anything against them; I rather admired those who read often and were well-informed about different subjects in the world of humanity. It was really about me, and about my anxieties and self-doubts when it came to my cognitive abilities.
Strange to say, considering my excellent test scores. I remember being lauded throughout childhood for my intelligence. As it turns out, though, telling a child that they’re incredibly smart is a strange sort of curse; it sets them up to believe that hard work isn’t necessary. It sets them up to believe that things work out for reasons that are beyond control. And anyway, if you’re handsomely rewarded when you’re not even trying, why waste your energy tackling a hard task that requires effort?
I finally grew tired of not knowing things about nine years after leaving high school (I abstained from college). My return to books was somewhat timid at first, a guilty response to the attitudes and self-consciousness I felt in watching some of my favorite influencers showcasing their awesome, varied knowledge. My rediscovery of the joy of learning wasn’t a great epiphany; it was more like little flirtations and victories here and there. I’ll download an audiobook; I’ll take a recommendation. I’ll let myself be tempted by a public speaker’s pitch, and buy their book online.
Eventually I was driving myself to used bookstores and coming home with more strange and exciting books than I had space to keep. My ‘to-read’ list is always much longer than my list of finished books, and probably always will be, but I’ve started dedicating more and more time to this hobby as I’ve discovered more and more ways in which it has changed me and made me a better person. The trope of the library posters, “knowledge is power”, becomes a lot more understandable when you’re selecting the knowledge you wish to cultivate on your own terms.
I’ve got a lot of opinions about school, and about institutions in general, but I think these are all circumstantial, bits of resentment that I’m still holding on to, when what I really want is to spread the gospel of reading. I want people to read. I want to become a better, stronger, wiser person, to have exciting conversations about the nature of reality and the great human story, and to make art that reflects something deeper and more universal than I could’ve known without study. Books are like tattoos for you brain; one that stirs your passions will always be with you, influencing you, pushing and pulling you in directions that you wouldn’t have gone without them. They’re alchemical fuel for the athanor of your mind.
Ben told me that it didn’t really matter that our writings on this blog were all pancake art related; it’s just important that they’re interesting and that we write them. So I think I might spend more time writing about me, about who I really am and what I really want. I’ve struggled for so many years to figure out how I’m supposed to package this blinding light I feel inside of myself; how I’m supposed to bend and contort and shade and flavor myself so that I can find peace and freedom in following my heart. I don’t know if I’ve figured that out, but this feels like a start. Books are my vice and my virtue, my one collectible good and a gift that I’ll always be grateful for. If you want to understand this particular pancake artist, books are key.
If you’re reading this, I hope that you’ll find something worth sticking around for in the posts to come. I’ll write about my favorite books; I’ll write about my misadventures in the world of music and media, board games and esoterica. I’ll just write. I love to, and I have nothing in my way anymore.