Storytelling did not start with books. It started with cave paintings, whispers around a fire and probably dancing far into the night to the sound of drums or just about any hollow instrument that could produce a noise. As humanity, we have told stories to represent, recall and shape reality from the very first moments of our evolution.
But for me, my passion for the written word – literature, in its broadest sense – began when I discovered the magic of the alphabet. I remember my parents telling me stories, and listening carefully; but oh, how empowered I felt when I finally became independent in my access to all the information lying around me!
I learned how to read a few months after my 4th birthday. I had known how to spell and write my name for a long while, but I remember perfectly the moment when I finally understood the magic formulas which governed the world of the adults were going to become clear to me. I was on ski week with my parents, and caught a terrible flu. As I tossed and turned restless in bed, I remember my mother patiently guiding me letter through letter to give me something to do. And it was love at first sight.
I returned from the holidays with a new superpower none of the other kids my age had (yet). Advertisements I saw in the streets were no longer just pictures – I no longer had to guess at their meaning, I knew it. And I was zapped (no better word comes to my mind) by the thought that the more I could read, the more books I could put my hands on, the more I would know.
What I have found out today is that there is no absolute knowledge to be found in books, but only in our hearts. The stories we find and interact with are tools, keys that can help us unlock the secret chambers of our identity, the ones we don’t even know we have. But books, books still hold a special place for me.
I like the independence of following the story with my own timing, the evocative power of the word that leaves the actual visualization of what is going on to our imagination; new media are fascinating, systems governed by aesthetic and structural principles of their own, never a surrogate for the written word. I feel lucky that my professional path has led me to a point where I can enjoy the pleasure of working with both these realities, playing with words and language (and therefore ideas).
Because there is no separation between words and ideas – literature and philosophy go hand in hand. The grammar we are taught in school tells us we shouldn’t start sentences with and, but, and because (just like I have throughout this entire post). Literature will help list the authors which indulged in the same guilty pleasure. Philosophy tells us we have every right to do the same, with full awareness.
I started reading looking for knowledge. I will aways keep on reading because it gives me freedom.