“Life as a Series of Words”
In Alberto Manguel’s essay “Reading Ourselves and the World Around Us” he describes as a boy his experience with learning to read. His first experiences were with others reading to him, or telling him what things meant, not just words but signs and symbols and pictures as well. He felt this to be very enlightening at first but soon realized that he was not experiencing the full depth of what could be felt if only he could decipher these things on his own without other people interpreting them for him. He eventually learned to read himself and it was like a whole new world opened up to him. He could now essentially feel everything that was available to him, and not filtered through the minds and words of other people. He says “There was no surprise” in this. At the age of four his world opened up around him in ways he never imagined before, and suddenly he felt alive more so than ever. What his main point is is that life is meaningless without our ability to fully understand things around us from the framework of our own minds, and not just those of other people. This is what growing up is about.
He cites a number of examples, such as the Chinese fortune teller reading the ancient marks on the shell of a tortoise, or the psychiatrist helping patients read their own bewildering dreams. This way of seeing things transformed his 4 year old self into a child full of new possibilities. Now it was within his power to evaluate the meanings of anything, from his own point of view. The examples he used state how one has a specialty and that’s the way he sees the world. The psychiatrist sees dreams and interprets them in his own way, the fortune teller does the same thing but in a more abstract way. He says some things are given to being interpreted by chance, such as at night or in a specific situation, others are given over fully to chance.
I agree that reading, in his sense of the word, is not just writing on a piece of paper but...