Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Satisfying an Intellectual Hunger

From September 1 to October 31, 2012, Armacost Library is holding an Intellectual Freedom Blogathon featuring posts on topics concerning censorship, the freedom to read, view, and express, and the connection these various freedoms have to individual life experiences and the state of society. The following essay is part of the Armacost Library Intellectual Freedom (ALIF) Blogathon. 

My reading habits have always been strange. Of the many “classics” that everyone is supposed to have read, I’ve read maybe a handful. Yet I’ve read widely and, sometimes, voraciously, and the books I’ve read mean a lot to me. Books stand as landmarks in my memory, marking the places my consciousness changed, where I absorbed, contemplated, and wrestled with the expressions and experiences of people beyond my own little world. I am who I am, in part, because of what I’ve read.
As far back as I can remember, I believed I could read whatever I chose, and I never once imagined that any book could be off limits. Some of the most controversial books I ever read were class assignments, texts my teachers and professors encouraged me to explore—and for good reason, as they provided much to think and talk about. As an adult, my favorite books tend to be those that challenge young readers to stretch their imaginations and their evolving perceptions of the world. As an adult, I recognize that my own imagination still hungers, and my own perceptions must continue to evolve.
Image courtesy of pdphoto.org
Exposing ourselves to new voices makes our minds more robust and flexible, because reading widely is like kneading fresh dough in advance of baking bread. As you subject the dough to the force of your hands, pushing it one way and pulling it the other, folding it in half and repeating the process in a slightly different way, the dough becomes smooth and elastic. At once, the dough seems stronger, more complex, more balanced, and further along on its journey. Its capacity grows, and it becomes primed to transform into something magnificent, delicious, and rewarding—proving the value of the hard work that produced it.
Buying bread at the grocery store is much easier, and that’s what most of us do most of the time. Many of us read what is already comfortable, aligning with the views we already hold. Take a moment to remember a time when your world opened up, and you started to understand something new. Then consider the smell, the taste, the texture of freshly baked bread, and ask yourself: Aren’t some things, on occasion, worth the effort?
Cynthia Cohen
Armacost Library Intern, Fall 2012
Recent MLIS Graduate, San Jose State University, School of Library and Information Science

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