I am wandering through the bookstore wondering why the overwhelming desire to read dead authors proves more of a driving force than any yearning to interact with greater society. The compulsion vibrates like a struck drum. From every shelf, the names stare at me, these unconditionally and dispassionately caring friends of my youth with whom I spent years, tucked away in dark basements holding a flashlight, as I explored the myriad tales of dead men. Dead men transport me, to other times, to dueling swordsmen and swooning princesses, to African deserts and mythical mountains, and into the imaginative minds and visionary eyes of history’s most mesmerizing voices. With words, they evoke emotion, passionate, a sense of adventure.
My teachers tell me I need friends, sensory stimulation that breathes life into my soul, as though the thoughts of my peers offer anything informative about living. They suggest reading is the antithesis of practice, that life exists in sounds, smells, tastes and sights, the tactile experience of existence. To me, this is a disavowal of original thought, a dependence upon external circumstance such that one accepts numbness in the absence of sensory stimulation.
The consequence of this acceptance is concerning because humans are creatures of behavioral habit – the adaptive technique whereby we search for patterns in order to avoid pain and fear. As such, by moving about in our ritualistic ways, we de-sensitize ourselves to external information, to the point where even our numbness is numb. And this is what the teachers expect from me, a life of constant stimulation from peripheral forces such that I get outside my own head, to experience this life of tedium, this malaise of human existence, this living where life itself is the disease.
I think we have more to learn from the dead than the living. Thousands of years of experience rest upon the bookshelves, to be devoured and dissected in a way that suggests a lab rat autopsy. What we learn from history, we apply to the present. What we learn form the present, we apply to the future. What we learn from the future is that we should have studied more in the past.