Sunday, September 13, 2009

Daily Journal September 12-- How 9/11 Made Me a Reader Again

After 9/11, I turned off my TV and started reading again.
The catch-phrase was, "the world changed on 9/11".  And for a time, the world did seem different, judging from the television images.   For days afterward, there was almost no other coverage except from Ground Zero.  We were taken to police stations, firehouses and churces; we listened to the emotional testimonies of witnesses, and of those who lost loved ones.  We were reminded again and again of the images of the planes striking, of the buildings sinking into the ground.  

It appeared that a new gravity was taking hold in the country, a new seriousness...No longer would the insipid episodes of a "Survivor"-type reality-TV show satisfy a newly grown-up populace matured by tragedy and "reality".  

It was a time in which I became aware of just how little I was learning about the world around me, how little I understood what might have led up to the disaster.  I felt powerless by my lack of knowledge, unprepared to deal with the possible ramifications of another attack, maybe one in which I might lose my own loved ones or have my freedoms removed.  I realized I had spent far too much time in front of a television, and neglected my early passion and skill for reading and storing knowledge. 

As a three-year-old I learned to read, and being a child in poor health, books were my hobby, my companions, and unknowingly I sped ahead of my peers in knowledge.  As I moved into my adolescence, and even into college,  the habit of reading books gave way, unfortunately, to other things.  In my peer group, the one in which I  wanted to belong, it seemed that world-knowledge was not important.
About three weeks after the 9/11 disaster, as the press exhausted its material for 24-hour coverage, and people not directly affected by the attack were returning to their normal lives, I found myself channel-surfing.  Regular programming had returned after weeks of nearly continuous images and analysis of the tragedy.  It all looked so crude and insensitive to me;   I was dismayed that people were ready to go return to these distractions.

Right then, without giving it a second thought, I picked up the phone, called my cable provider, and canceled all but my most basic service; all other channels were dropped. 

I made up my mind then to start reading....starting with books about religious thought and history and the history of the middle east.  Soon I added novels, non-fiction about science, politics, movies, animals, and other topics.  I started to feel like I was part of something again, and since then, have averaged about 50 books a year.

In the days ahead I hope to write about some of the books that shaped my thinking in time since 9/11, and how unwittingly the activity of reading put me on the road to re-inventing myself.

I hope my readers will share their most significant reading here too.

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