How’s Life?

This morning I found myself asking someone, “How’s life?” It’s a common enough phrase, usually intended to express an interest in the well-being of someone without being too specific. As sometimes happens to me, though, this particular phrase caused an unintended chain reaction in my brain. (Bear with me, this will eventually work its way around to books…)

How’s life?? How can anyone possibly answer this question properly? Life is chaotic. Life is vast and impenetrable. Life is overwhelming and constant. It’s the continuous absurd juxtaposition of being and nothingness, of moments and eternity, of completeness and incompleteness. It’s Oroboros, the snake that eats its own tail, and therefore both never-ending and already finished. How’s life? How’s life??

Sure, this is a bit melodramatic, and anyone responding in this way would be labeled a bit of a nut… but why is that? I think it’s because there are certain types of thinking, certain types of discussion, that we are encouraged to keep to ourselves. The big, scary, existential concepts that, if they are discussed with others, are relegated to philosophy classes. As a result, many people simply avoid them altogether, because pondering them is lonely and difficult (the word ‘ponder’ actually has the sense of carrying a heavy weight).

I would contend that these concepts, and our need to confront them, are part of the reason that reading is so important. Reading is, by nature, an individual activity. It is an accepted method by which we can isolate ourselves, take time to face the enormity of something greater and then, when we have had enough for today, return safely to the comforts of society. I think this has always been my understanding of the value and purpose of reading, though perhaps until now I have not been able to articulate it in quite this way. I have, as a result, been extremely confused by the statement, “I don’t like to read.” To me, it seems synonymous with, “I’m afraid.”

Don’t misunderstand, though. I realize that everyone comes to things in their own time. They will not be forced. That moment when they encounter the same sense of wonder, the wealth of experiences, and the sheer joy that I find in books… it’s still out there somewhere, waiting for them to arrive. It is, for me, real-life dramatic irony (“If they only knew…”). Which is why, instead of responding with the second paragraph above when someone asks me, “How’s life?”, I simply say, “Life is good.”

Published in: on April 26, 2016 at 12:23 PM  Leave a Comment  

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