Kalpesh Joshi

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Why do we read? Is it the guilt of being literate?

Playing, imitating, seeing, listening, reading, thinking are some of the everyday acts through which we keep working on ourselves. Often these are reflexes but not always. In general, playing is considered easy and enjoyable as against rest of the activities despite - and probably also because of - the fact that it involves all our senses to their fullest! Whereas, listening, thinking and reading are relatively dull activities perhaps because they make intense use of couple of organs and senses only. We also form views, opinions, notions, ideas by interactions based on all the above and other activities. We tend to form bases of our choices and priorities from these interactions. The process may or may not be observed but we continue to get influenced through interactions with the world within and outside. While we assert our freedom of choice as being human, we may tend to forget that freedom of choice includes the freedom to accept and reject influences. Getting influenced is thought to be an uncontrolled, involuntary process but is it really so?

Do we really enjoy full control over our capacity to pay attention? Is it not that, we can have a greater control over the process of getting influenced if we can affect some control over our attention? Is it not directly related to our ability to choose which thought to entertain, when and how much? Is it also not related to our ability to see what our mental apparatus is doing by getting detached from it? If we believe in our freedom of choice to accept and reject influences, then it brings along the obligation to control the process by which we get influenced. In fact, having no control over the process is imperative of having no choice. Assuming that one enjoys control over the process of getting influenced (i.e. an ability to choose whether to pay attention), the next question could be: what helps us making a choice of how much to accept or reject?

We may not be aware of the fact that paying attention to something or ignoring it altogether is a crucial choice we make. Making a choice is not difficult as such, but to trace the roots of the choices we make may be challenging. The whole idea may seem absurd if we don’t want to reconsider or review afresh our everyday decisions and choices. The exercise of tracing the roots of our ideas, beliefs, thoughts, liking, tastes, feelings, inclinations, anger, sorrow, hatred, envy and insecurity can lead to understanding of self. Reading – one of the least efficient but challenging activities in terms of overall involvement of our faculties – offers leisurely opportunity in aiding dimensions to understanding ourselves. Unlike seeing, listening and playing, it does not warrant promptness. Rather it allows voluntary repetition till the satisfaction of the reader. It is inefficient as it uses only words – printed or written words. Yes, in a way it is very much unnatural. None the less, it is a window to the open embracing spaces of people’s minds. Where to look out in the open space is freedom of choice of the reader.

I'm all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let's start with typewriters.


- Frank Lloyd Wright (1868-1959)

IIT Bombay Readers Group's bookshelf: read
IIT Bombay Readers Group 392 members
This is a club for Readers at IIT Bombay, to discuss books they like and would want to read.

Books we've read





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My bookshelf: read

Jonathan Livingston Seagull The Art of Loving To Have or to Be? The Nature of the Psyche The Sane Society My Ishmael Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit

More of Kalpesh's books »
Book recommendations, book reviews, quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists

Click here to read my review on ‘Ishmael’ in ‘Current Science’. Brief review is also available on GoodReads.

Reasons to read (and not to read)