Tag Archive - Books

A Digestive Pen!

We might read hundreds of books, blog posts, magazines, newspapers, etc., yet all this mental nourishment doesn’t seem to do us much good. It does good, no doubt, but not as good as the actual quality of what we read. It’s like when we eat so much healthy food, but our body only minimally processes and benefits from it. The problem is not the quality of what we put into our body and our mind, it’s the quality of how we process it that really matters when it comes to tangible results.

In order to optimally get the benefit of the good food we eat, we need to improve our very own digestive system. This is the middle man that can take the healthy food and give it to our cells and organs. Without him, all this good food could end up in the trash! It works the same way with our much needed “mental foods”!

So who could be the middle man between “reading” and “doing”?! Between dead knowledge and lively action? The middle man could simply be a pen! Would a book be the same for us if, while or after reading it, we take a pen or a keyboard and write down a summary of what we just read? If we do, it will never be the same, it will be much more. The pen is like this all-natural digestive aid that makes us healthy, not by the nutrients that it has to offer, but just by its ability to make what we eat much more digestible. The pen works similarly.

One amazing example of the power of writing what we read is the story of Dr. Ben Carson. Ben’s mother was divorced with two kids. She was black, poor and illiterate, a combination that made life too difficult for any human being at the time. The best job her qualifications made possible was serving in rich peoples’ homes. Her son, Ben, didn’t seem to have any bright future laying ahead. At school, he was known as the dumbest kid of the class. The most likely path for him was to drop from school, join a gang and may be become a little drug dealer! Now Ben Carson is a renowned neurosurgeon! How did it happen? One day his genius mother made a decision, Ben was to read two books every week, then give her a written report of the books he read! This unpleasant task -that he had to do in order to be able to watch TV, play with his friends and take his pocket money- turned him into the smartest kid in the class, who then ended up in Yale, and from there to the University of Michigan medical school! His illiterate mother was smart enough to understand that if he didn’t write a summary of the books he read, his progress would have been way slower and weaker.

Same goes with how much value we get from a book that we read. When we hold the ideas and incarnate them into something that we write with our own hands and minds, the knowledge will be stronger, and its trip from ideas to reality will be faster!

Why don’t we do what’s good for us!?

I always knew that reading a good book is good for me. I knew it from real experience. Yet sometimes I waste a month, or more, without opening a book. A few days ago I picked a book from my library, mostly unread, and started reading it. I was delighted as I went from page to page. I was inspired. Good words have a sort of spiritual, clean energy that goes right to where our higher self resides. They speak to the best in us. Every human has the possibility of moving between lower and higher levels of being, between the best and the worst of one’s self:

“And by the soul and how He formed it, and inspired it its own rebellious evil and its piety! The one who purifies his soul succeeds, and the one who corrupts it fails”
Quran 91:7-10

Even though I knew it, there comes long periods of time where I don’t attempt to do myself good by reading a valuable book. But when I do get myself to do it, I just wonder: why in the world did I waste all this time without reading anything! Why did I waste all this time (or all this life! time being life, and not money!), not doing what’s good for me! At times we can’t help but re-confirming that we are our own worst enemies!

The best promise I can make to myself is this: I will always have a book to read. There are too many great books for one life-time anyway, and we are even wasting much of this one life??!! How insane that is!

However a good book is not worthy just because it’s good in itself. Books are ideas conserved and communicated in words. And ideas change people, then people change the world!

We’re indeed here only to change the world and make it, along with our own selves, better. And again, there are too many things in the world to change and reform for one life-time anyway, and we’re wasting this one life not even thinking of ways to reform it!

The least we can do for those who are suffering the unbelievable cruelty and injustice of some people is to care and think. Yes, think. Of what’s happening, how it happened, and how to change it. Thoughts are energy. Didn’t you hear that you should be careful what you think, because it might just come true!

Does self-help literature really help?

Self-help books easily make it to the top sellers’ lists. Self-help gurus are millionaires. Readers, including myself, jump from one best-selling self-help book to the other, from one form of self-improvement content to the other. We read it, we listen to it when driving, and we love watching the masters on TV. But after all that, did we really get the help we need? Did this great book change our life? Did that breakthrough program move us from under-achievers to super-achievers?

I once was having a conversation with a friend of mine, a fan of self-improvement books himself. I said but you know what, self-help books do have a problem. They bring us a great deal of pleasure while reading them. Then that’s it. The pleasure stops there, at the reading. Then in order to have this pleasure again, we pick a new book. While we read those brilliant ideas, we already get a psychological fulfillment. We get excited, imagining ourselves doing all what the book is suggesting. Then when the reading ends, and the excitement fades, we still don’t have the will to change. Doing those things didn’t look as exciting as it did during the reading. The theory was more compelling as a theory than it was in action.

Does that mean I am against reading and listening to those beautiful things? No. Repetition is good on the long term. If we keep reading and listening to this type of ideas every day, we will at least benefit from it by improving our mood and having some moments of hope. But in order to have this benefit, we need not to have gaps. We need not to listen to one audio book, get excited, then stop for a month. Because this gap will then create something worse. We will feel incapable and weak. Guilt will be born, subtle but persistent. The undone promising ideas will torture us, will leave us depressed because we failed to do what we ought to do.

We need to come up with a consistent method to make use of what we read. Because if we don’t, it could work against us, instead of working for us.

Arabic Nobel

It was really nice to find some (a pretty limited number) Arabic books in Tompkins County Public Library here in Ithaca, NY.

Yesterday I have finished a novel I borrowed for the Egyptian Nobel laureat Naguib Mahfouz, one of the greatest novelists of all times and languages. As with most Mahfouz work I have read, the novel has two levels: the story and all its events, extremely realist, and parallely the philosophical insights behind the story as a whole and behind various apparantly “innocent” phrases throughout the book.

If you don’t read Arabic, try one of Mahfouz translated novels, and let me know what you find in and out of the experience.