The day you stop reading is the day you start dying

Dear Editor,

Something made me pause from moving on from the captioned `Andrew Pollard, S.C. is a Special Person’ article (KN May 20).  It was that arresting dialogue box where Mr. Pollard said that “the day you stop reading, is the day you stop learning, is the day you start dying.”  In terms of the dying, I never saw matters that starkly.  But I have always believed completely in the reading and the nexus with learning; now there is that relationship with dying, too. Permit me to share my own experiences with reading, what it has meant to me, and what it could-should-signify for everyone else.

I have easily read over 10,000 books on every conceivable subject; I have close to another 2,000 on hand waiting to be plumbed and discovered.  For me, reading is more than an interest, it is as close to an obsession as I would allow myself.  I view it as more than the stepping stone to learning; it is part of growing and hopefully excelling.  It is what I share with, and exhort of, young and old.  Read something; read anything: knowledge is power; and knowledge constantly accumulated and skillfully applied can be overpowering.

As a child approaching my early teens, I remember consuming (not just reading) Blackman, Chichester, Singh, et al in the Graphic and Chronicle; the coverage of Burnham and Jagan, and the works of literary giants from afar.  It was not easy to comprehend some of the cascading floods of material, oratory, and ideology from these sources, but dogged application (and that pocket dictionary) helped to make limited connections.  In time, there came the ability to interpret and ferret out on my own meanings of words and phrases never encountered.  And just from the context.  They had to mean this, could not mean anything else.  This is the same rigour at self-teaching that I encourage in others; its starts with reading, prodigious reading.  When books became scarce and went underground, scarcer pennies were spent to chase them and to keep going, to give a chance at learning and growing.  It brings cringing when others share that they don’t like reading or hate reading; that is a burgeoning tragedy of those who cheat themselves and have already committed some form of suicide.  One has to be a sponge and sometimes a sucker for punishment; it can be like heavy training: no pain, no gain.

Reading should not be a passive mechanical exercise (a forced evil); I believe that can only be self-limiting and foster comfortable dependency on illiteracy.  Rather, it is that constant grasping for pebbles of understanding (Newton) to erect an expanding storehouse of knowledge and confidence; self-examination leads to self-criticism followed by the cure of self-instruction.  To be able to approach an unfamiliar word, phrase, or passage and intuitively sense what it is saying, where it is going is not mere academic process, but the embodiment of an insatiable thirst for learning that reaches in most disciplines.  Love of reading can follow.  Knowledge is commanding; the dimness of ignorance enslaving.

Reading and learning brings the humility to know that, though many things have been absorbed, there is still much more that I do not know.  Increasing the personal knowledge base is part of the resistance to dying on feet, dying with eyes open, and of dying while the ideal world thrives with vitality.  As I write, there is the interest in pushing others (like I still do to myself) to challenge themselves to peer behind the literal, seek related meanings, expand vocabulary, and regarding each writing effort as a teaching exercise, but only for those committed to learning.  In so doing, I call upon other writers not to contribute to the ongoing dumbing down of Guyana. I appeal to them to recoil from the stale and predictable.  It is why self and others must break new and more nuanced ground even on the same issues; to break out of the suffocating prison of the old familiar box. I say: carry others to new summits of learning; start first with self.  Start with reading.  My thanks to Senior Counsel Andrew Pollard for a special gem of a message.  Well said!

Yours faithfully,

GHK Lall

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