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The Quick Answer is to Know!


My admonition to the youth of today would be to cultivate good habits. The best of these I believe is reading.  This is not something I took full interest in until later in life.  There were less than a handful of books I chose to read all the way through when I was young.  Father Damien of Molokai and A Cellarful of Noise were among those few. Much later, at about 2018 I began to constantly read books of mostly history. There first must be interest, reading will follow. As you read you will undoubtedly enrich your vocabulary.  Happening upon an unfamiliar word is one of the constant joys of my reading.  Like a hound that detects a difference in the air, I stop and sniff around the object I’ve come upon.  I scan its’ construction and attempt an unaided pronunciation of my own. Often times my investigation reveals layers of historical etymology.  Once I have sufficiently quenched my thirst to understand just one more pebble on the beach, I move on a bit wealthier. 


Yes, the quick answer is (to) know, while the grandest answer is (to) understand, which will lead the curious to yet another question. I’ve many times declared my lifelong occupation as that of a “full time student” and with deep regard to Da Vinci, a “disciple of experience”. I would also describe myself as a restless reader, one who is continually digging himself out of a comfortable chair.  It’s not impatience on my part, it’s the thought that there are so many other subjects waiting for me to taste. Well, maybe it is impatience or the lack of constitutional diligence and maybe the thought that at a young age I put a value on doing more than one thing at a time. I now read and listen to information in nuggets. I visit these nuggets, like a guest not wanting to wear out his welcome, rather than consume them in one or two or three sittings. I’m never disappointed when opening Wootton’s  The Invention of Science, Ricks’ First Principals or McCullough’s Brave Companions. Rightly or wrongly, I use to imagine there would be a touch of loss were I to fully complete a cherished book, as if I were turning off a spigot of information. These days, as noted earlier, I am feeling more of a sense of accomplishment at concluding a book. The 1850 oil painting by Carl Spitzweg entitled The Bookworm visually speaks to my self-perception.  Without regard to the political interpretations of that work, the cold first-glance is what I may be all about – unmindful of the precarious platform I occupy, my search on multiple fronts is undeterred.  Maybe it was my left handedness which causes me to start books, or magazines for that matter, at the end rather than the beginning.  Not all readers write but rest assured all writers read!               

It may seem a bit incongruous to some, because it does even to me, that given my somewhat dormant relationship with reading when I was younger, I have always had an affinity for libraries, both personal and otherwise.  As a child I was thoroughly taken by a room of shelved books and I’m not sure how to explain that.  The first home I ever visited containing a wall of titles belonged to my Father’s employer and I couldn’t have been more than ten years old. I was just in awe of the shelves, one atop the other, occupied by rows of colorful dust covers and bear spines seemingly standing at attention. Each volume, I imagined, containing diverse subject matter. The only book that I recall that stood out in that home library was a Bruce Catton volume of Civil War photography. My fascination with rooms dedicated to knowledge only grew. I remember after a family wedding when my parents and I retired to the home of the bride’s mother and father.  The house, in Delaware county, had a den with book shelves and a plaid carpet. It’s the only room I remember.  When Franklin University was moving from its’ Long Street address to the corner of Town and Grant, its’ library had a sale on some older volumes and I purchased a few.  I remember the old library was appointed with ornate wood shelving and the traditional leaded glass in an English diamond design illuminated the reading tables.  Then there is the bold simplicity of the Stone Library that stands next to “Peacefield”, the homestead of John and Abigail Adams in Quincy, Massachusetts. When we built 4050 Brook Road I allowed for a shallow alcove and designed and built a bookshelf for my family but nothing could rival the immense majesty of the Long Room at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.  We visited the 1732 edifice in 2018, it was overwhelmingly powerful. it was like a dream made real. I was 19 when I first heard of the Book of the Month Club and I joined with the intent of starting my own library. I have a number of those books still, along with the Harvad Classics and a twelve-volume set from the Classics Club.  I was bent on creating my own collection of authors and books which have distinguished themselves over the years. I just wanted to have my own copies forever available to me. Jimmy and I also checked out the recorded plays of Shakespeare from the Columbus Metro Library. I would copy them from thirty-three-and third vinyl to tape and file them away so I could have them to listen to when I wanted. We did the same with artwork too. The library allowed you to check out copies of fine art for a month at a time.  We’d hang them in our rooms or around the house.           

My growing determination to understand the world I was living in intensified in 1995 when I casually came upon the writing of Joseph Campbell. His lifelong work into the psychological powers of the worlds’ mythologies, spoke to me instantly. Before his passing in 1987, Campbell explored the foundations of human thought in countless ways. His discussion on the evolution of the Arthurian legends was an eye-opener. The retelling of this tale of a mythic king grew to become a literary cornerstone of Western Civilization.  What captured me was the storytelling experience of “the adventure”.  Great stories of courage, morality and ethics were told through these personal journeys. Using the forest as a metaphor for life we are told the code of the Knights of the Roundtable forbid them from entering the forest in a group, for that would be a disgrace. Stating rather, each must enter the forest alone, at a point of his own choosing, where the forest is found to be its’ darkest and --- there is no path. If you see an existing path it is not yours, it belongs to someone else. The profundity of these romantically wrapped stories of one’s individualism pushed me to want to know more. I have had a growing relationship with writing since my teenage years.  It was the writers of songs not the singers, the writers of scripts not the actors, that drew my interest.  The stage, where as a child I felt the approving gaze of an audience, evolved into a broad taut canvass of emotions.  This is where humanity is introduced to itself.  For me it became pathos unchained. 

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