by Kleitia Vaso

My thoughts on reading and its personal benefits sprang from the most unlikely source: a pretty boy at the beach who described himself as “definitely non-academic”.
While the person in question was certainly beautiful, in a delicate way that deserves precisely this description, and well-informed on music and pop media, he definitely lacked a kind of depth, the absence of which did not matter to me for my own sake (he was a passing acquaintance  whom I will probably not meet again), but for his. I thought it was sad that he didn’t have the proper tools to enjoy his own beauty and luck. The attention and care that others (I imagined this part as I didn’t really talk that long to him), bestowed as a gift would have been enjoyed thoroughly and perhaps used as fuel for other things…if he had developed himself a little more internally.

I have to confess that everything I do contains a good dose of pleasure in it. I lack a strong will – maybe not the will but the logic driving it, the very rarely convincing reasons to be disciplined and await the fulfillment of a long-term goal – and don’t have the necessary discipline to do things I don’t enjoy. In that sense, I am almost like an addict: in this case, the addictive substance is the root of every addiction, immediate pleasure.  Once I start to do something I really don’t like but should, I convince myself that there is no sense in being tortured this way and stop…not always, but usually. So, reading undoubtedly brings me pleasure and that’s the main reason I do it. Others are the usual, expected ones: temporary escape, distraction, knowledge etc. I usually cannot read dry theory and philosophy but I cannot read purely mindless, distracting kind of books either – let’s say I want something in between. But, what I do know is that in a half-conscious, half-accidental way, I have read since I was very young to provide myself with the instruments needed to feel and experience all that life offers me and everything I want to take from it. Reading has served to sharpen my thoughts and sensations so that I am ready to experience every person/relationship/event with as much intensity as possible; or, more precisely, intensely experience myself through the person/relationship/event. So, it magnifies all my other abilities, both gifts and flaws, increasing both my capacity for happiness and pain. Reading, then, is simultaneously sharpening and enriching: sharpens the mind, enriches the senses. Then, the right turn of phrase or idea can transform even ordinary gestures or moments, “all the lead/sleeping in my head/to gold” which are the lyrics to an Arcade Fire song referring to the transformative power of love but, the heights of which one can only reach if ready with a rich mental and emotional arsenal.

As I was looking at the boy, I hoped he would remedy this lack for his own sake and I thought of The Picture of Dorian Gray‘s Lord Henry’s desire to make Dorian aware of his beauty, an awareness that, although, it awoke Dorian from the lethargic slumber of youth and innocence and pushed him to live and experience everything with inextinguishable hunger, it dragged him though all kinds of internal and external hell.  Despite the suffering, Dorian’s increasing self-knowledge and awareness of his power was well worth it. Otherwise we would all be extras and no one would be the main character.

Later, though, I got to know the real boy better and he leaped off the page.

by Kleitia Vaso