An Unbeatable Weapon
Just about all of the male figures I would ever take advice from are dead. However, like the quote above I still agree with the things they must have believed, or even just said.
Books seem to have lost their luster for true breaks in sad realities, learning and relating to humanity. Seems we have gotten used to more unproductive ways of entertaining our own claustrophobic minds... Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on who you are, I still have not gotten with the program of the 21st century. I gotta say I still value a good history book in my hands, I still buy the fuckin newspaper even... something my father did every morning, that I swore I'd never follow in his footsteps, it was THE sign of old age...
My pops never knew about Carl Sagan...Not before he noticed my room painted in solid black with glow in the dark stars and moons. He asked if I needed help painting it back to its original Navajo White before my mom got home from a church retreat and saw what I had done to her walls... But he did always reminded us that if we learned how to read, the possibilities in life are literally, endless. Talk about a chipper quote that sounded corny, but to this day has proven true, at least in my little corner of the world. Having kids myself, I think that if there is one great thing they inherited from me, it was the passion for overcoming boredom, but it didn't come easy for them, just like it didn't come easy for me.
The first book I ever read from start to finish was "Cosmos" by Carl Sagan (about a journey through time and space). It was the longest, most horrifying experience of my life after I realized I could sit in a chair for hours on end in a juvenile hall at 13 yrs old contemplating "...Billions upon billions of stars". Recreation time had been wrapping up and everybody had been sent back to their holding cell for the night. I remember the cold and loud atmosphere, and thinking to myself... "If only that book had found me three weeks ago - I wouldn't be here locked up like a fuckin animal." Speaking of juvenile and books, if there was one reason I liked my probation officer, it would be two reasons instead. One, she was the hottest thing the county ever hired to set a juvenile train wreck straight. And two, every day she brought me a new book that she ordered me to read and write a lengthy summary on... a task I later found out my pops had put her up to... But it worked.
However it is that a book can capture idol hands, or silence a mind that naturally works overtime, or become the gatekeeper between the discovery of your imagination and logical thinking, the power of knowing how to read is indestructible... It got me through incarceration. It got me through college. It got me through almost 17 full years of devising and manipulating the boundaries of military intelligence. Indestructible...
The first book I got my daughter hooked on was "Superfudge" by children's author, Judy Blume. I found the free worn out copy in my school's library and judged that book completely by its cover, and brought it with me to her daycare. I had no money at that time, but all that meant to her was we would be spending the afternoon at the park, free games of tag and all the swinging she could handle on a hot afternoon. I sat under a shade tree and as she played on the jungle gym I read out loud with my hands, the book in my other hand. For days, that was the routine until one afternoon I sat there and just watched her and she turned to ask me, "What happened to Superfudge, Dad?" I remember the feeling... Knowing she did not know how to read, but she had already gotten her first taste of the universal escape. The feeling is much like a successful mission, in where all of a sudden you just know everything is going to be OK... Turns out she had not only been listening, she had been following. And to her, Superfudge was a best friend. And so I pulled it out of my backpack and continued reading and on through the summer, broke-ass days at the park or even on the bus going home, I read to her. And I read, and read... And read to her.
There is power in the knowledge of reading, in every capacity of life and understanding. Not just the art of breaking free from the daily grind, but new discoveries and the familiarity of the days we learned how to even write. My father used to also tell us, "If you know how to write, you will never bow to another man... Literacy is the first key to the door of your wisdom, the foundation of your independence.. the things I can't teach you, the ability to write legibly and read proficiently, will."
My father never knew of Carl Sagan... but on an equal plane, he was on to something.