Thursday, March 30, 2006

As things stand

There was a time when I lived without art, yet I knew that it existed. I deluded myself into believing that it didn’t play a role in my life, and that I could subsist on a steady diet of everyday life. I could, but it was a mostly hollow existence. The first stirrings of taedium vitae quelled any notion that complacency was an option. I turned to literature for solace. Then I turned to writing. My limited exposure to anything beyond the confines of my small world life precluded quality output. Sadly, I did not know it at the time.

At once happy and ignorant, I pursued the belief that I would go somewhere with my writing. My perseverance resulted in a short stack of pages abundant in mediocrity and resplendent in banality: indeed, it was very bad prose. I think, perhaps, that I did know it at the time, though I pretended to be oblivious to my literary shortcomings. It was because I was too much in love with the idea of being a writer. Of course, there are writers, and there are writers, though this knowledge did not come until much later.

I stopped writing, thus sparing others from the awful fruits of my toil. Yet I thought about writing, and I thought about it often. At the same time, I read fiction of questionable authorship (I will not name names here). It was only a matter of due course that I became a bibliophile. It was not my intention to pursue rare first editions or volumes whose physical beauty outshone their content. I merely bought books, mostly of the fictional sort. Mostly they remained unread. Mostly they collected dust. It was around then that their physicality struck me as being as important as their content. The sight of their horizontal arrangement on my growing number of bookshelves was capable of evoking an enormous sense of wellbeing. Maybe it had to do with their reliable steadfastness, their unwavering commitment to me in my time of need. Maybe, also, it had to do with my dawning awareness that, as my book collection grew, so did the wealth of ideas that availed themselves to my gnawing need for intellectual growth.

Ideas and intellectual growth: this was to be the theme that pervaded my existence for the many years that followed, and indeed, follows me right up to this very minute. Oh, how I craved them! Oh, how I lacked them! I crave them still. Do I lack them still? I suspect that I do. But in my active pursuit of them, I edify myself, and that should make a difference. It seems strange to me now, when I think back to a time when I did not undertake endeavours intended to bolster my intelligence. This is completely at odds with an otherwise bookish lifestyle. Yet there was a co-existing singlemindedness that did not allow for the presence of alternate points of view. Having said that, I realize that it makes no sense at all, yet that is the way that it was. My intent was to change that.

The plan to change involved a return to university. I applied to library school on a lark. I was accepted, and then I moved to the city, and then I went ahead and got myself another degree. Four more letters to follow my name. It changed me forever. The previous craving alluded to will simply not abate. I am compelled to pursue any manner of written word as an addict might pursue the substance of his downfall. My personal downfall is language: words are my drug of choice.

Amidst my word-induced reverie, real life intervenes. It can be mind-numbing. Most of the time, I am surrounded by individuals who live without words, indeed without art. I feel very little kinship with these people. I once believed that living in a big city would not change me, but now I firmly believe that it has: it has shown me a world that was previously unheard of, unknown. It is a world of art, a world of ideas, a world of intellectual growth, and above all else, a world of words. This is where I reside.


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