the laid.back Buddhist has MOVED...back!

Thursday, September 6

Complusive Re-reading

Just what the doctor ordered...

For some reason, I felt compelled to share a story of how a tomboyish wildchild got converted into a chronic bookworm. For believe it or not, I was a really wild little punk as a kid.

My days then consisted of running around with the neighborhood boys and getting ourselves into all sorts of lovely mischief.

Only my mom didn't think scabby knees and a recurring appearance of bush scratches to be as...lovely, to say the least.

Nor do I remember her being very fond of all the dirt and sand I tracked into the house every day. It also didn't help that my dad found my antics amusing and continually encouraged me to indulge in whatever craziness my daydreaming prompted me to try. However, my mom's main worry was that I didn't take my (3rd-grade!) studies seriously enough...

All my teachers would tell her, "Joanne is such a sweet child who always smiles, but she doesn't pay attention in class because she keeps socializing!"

I get moved from one table to the next because the table I'm at always becomes a non-stop fit of giggles and fervent whispers.

And, uhh, if back then you were to tell me to read a book? Excuse me while I yawn. I had no drive to learn. I just wanted to make new friends and play, play, play.

This worried my mother because it mirrored exactly how she was at my age. It wouldn't be until many, many years later that I'd learn my mom (as the second youngest of six and with acres and acres of country farmland as her playgound) got herself in worse childhood pranks than I ever did.

So seeing a likeness of herself in me, my mom knew she had to curb my dislike for reading before it settled into a habit. You see, not liking to read can be quite an hindrance to one's education and verbal ability, especially for a child growing up in a bilingual household.

Therefore one afternoon, for some random scape I got myself into, I was punished with a 1 hr "time-out" at the kitchen table while my mom prepared dinner.

With one special condition.

I was to read this book she had bought me a couple of weeks ago. A book that, when it wasn't collecting dust in the corner, could be seen swatting at cobwebs around the house.

It's funny how Life works sometimes. That afternoon something happened for me, something just clicked. What started out as resentful reading turned into an endless discovery of a brand-new world. For even after my mom told me that my "time-out" was up, I remained in my seat, wholly engrossed with the pages in front of me.

This marked the successful conversion over to bookworm-ism.

Although, I think my mom got way more than she bargained for.

For she started hearing quite a different story from my teachers, like "Joanne is such an intelligent child, but she doesn't pay attention in class because she keeps reading and reading!"

I would devour my teachers' bookshelves. I simply could not get enough to satisfy my hunger.

And, this hunger has stayed with me. However, it's not limited to new books...I like to re-read books, too.

It's why I keep all of my old books, every single one of 'em! Which sometimes makes me feel like a stingy hoarder for adamantly refusing (yet again) to add any books of mine to the donation collection of old ones (past textbooks included) my parents give to the public library every few years.

Now, I'm not saying this just because I happen to be a chronic bookworm...there's much benefit to be had from re-reading books. True, the words remain the same. A second or even third read doesn't change that.

But, as the reader, I will change.

Three years later, the very same sentences can take on new meaning for me. Three years later, some experience allows me to be able to relate to the same-old book in a different way or on a whole new level.

Three years later, I can appreciate my books even more.

Since I've started writing regularly again, this complusion to re-read has expanded to things I've written in the past. Particularly if I'm going through a rough patch.

Or if I start to feel unsteady in my step. If I know a thought could be driving me in the wrong direction. I'll re-read these posts of a past to remind myself of all the reasons there was a need for me to make certain decisions in the first place.

So, I use my written memories, to...remember.

Remembering reasons that remain as valid as ever.

I refuse to repeat the past.

24 Musing(s):

dcr said...

I have all of my old books too, except for a number that were damaged due to a water leak. :-( And, that still bugs me. I mean, I thought they were in a good location! If I would have known they were going to get damaged, I would put them somewhere else. And, some of those were among my favorite childhood books. :-(

I think I became more bookwormish when my family moved when I was in grade school. I think (though it's hard to remember the social structure of the early grade school years) that I was part of the "in" crowd. They actually had a little going-away party for me when I left. The year after I was gone, I think all of my guy friends tried out and made the basketball team. So, had I not moved away, there is the possibility I might have become a "jock." Who knows?

But, we moved, and I tried (and got squashed in the process) to get in the "in" crowd, but never made it. My neighbor and friend was possibly one of the "cool" kids, but he moved away the following year. On top of that, my old school was about a year ahead of the new school, so, for me, it was almost like repeating a grade. As a result, things were relatively easy, and then you get a reputation as being one of the "smart kids" which is followed by pretty much being ostracized as being one of the smart kids. Then, on top of that, I couldn't get in with the smart kids, because I couldn't get into the programs that the smart kids were in because the old school didn't have anything like that so there was nothing for the new school to give me "points" for, so I didn't have enough of these "points" to get into the advanced programs. (That was the excuse they gave, but I think there was more to it than that.)

So, that's how one becomes a social outcast from every possible group. Having no social life meant more time spent on my studies, and reading and then came computers...

Joanne said...

Dan: I have to say, love how your comment was like a mini-blogpost. You totally own Jon Stewart on being able to make me laugh, haha! I can relate to your story...I went to a different school in a different state for nearly every year from the 3rd grade to 8th grade. Looking back, if we had settled in one place and I continued to be educated at a certain school...I could've turned out VERY different from the person I am today. Says much for how much environment influences one's development, you know?

dcr said...

But, deep down, isn't the person we could have been still within our inner self? I sometimes think, that in a parallel universe, I'm a former star athlete married to a former cheerleader. ;-)

But, do our choices and opportunities really limit us, or do we allow ourselves to be limited by them? I mean, our parents (or most parents) tell us as children that we can be anything we want to be, but do we really listen and understand what that means?

Or, do we listen to our "friends" who tell us, "Oh, you'll never be able to do that!"

Despite encouragement, maybe we do tend to take the easy way out, especially when we don't have the encouragement of friends around. Back at the old school, there would no doubt have been peer pressure to play in the same sports with them. But, at the new school, I could have done the same. Maybe it was just easier to study than to practice?

Maybe I just never had the drive to be a star athlete. Maybe I'm better off for having read and studied? Perhaps I am who I was always meant to be?

Perhaps in that parallel universe, I'm a bitter divorced failed athlete working at a low end job paying child support to some cheerleader wannabe who ran off with the high school janitor?

I think that it's not the environment that shapes us, but rather moments of transition. Moments where you make a decision that you will only later see how it affected your whole life. And such moments would happen regardless of your environment.

If my family hadn't moved, I might have still experienced such a moment of transition at my old school. What if I hadn't made the basketball team with my friends? What if I had gotten injured? I quite possibly would still have decided to concentrate on my studies rather than athletics. I might still be basically the same person I am today, and not that parallel me I sometimes think.

Moments of transition. I think that's what makes us who we become.

dnordstrom said...

You both bring back a lot of memories here. Boy has my life changed, so much, so many times. It's fascinating how experiences can shape our entire personalities and mindsets. I feel compelled to do another blog post, Joanne. Sorry to borrow your subjects, but that's the way it's gotta be. Keep your eyes on my blog, this'll take me about an hour or two with the right cup of coffee by my side.

And then I've decided to start reading all of your previous posts, one by one, day by day until I finally finish and go back to my life of seemingly never-ending boredom. That's how curious I get. (And that's how busy I am 11 AM on a Thursday.) I mean, it's like you're my mentality twin or something, nearly everything you write can be applied to me as well. Seriously.

Or wait, maybe I should stop reading your blog. That's what one does when he encounters an addiction, he stops, right? But then again, since when did I start listening to the complete bullshit called "common" sense?

Ah, we'll see. I'll procrastinate the decision. Anyhow, you should email me if you want to really talk since there are a lot of stuff I can't publish anywhere on the internet. "The shit would hit the fan", to say the least.

David said...

I used to like books especially the goosebumps series! Then computer online games changed my life and I started reading very little. Thank god I quit computer games now! I really hate textbooks so I hardly read them during my college years except during midterms or finals. I'm so in to Chinese classics right now!

Erina Hart said...

You probably know I’m about to say the following:

“I am—so—glad that your mother made you read that book!”

There, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system…

It is wonderful that you read so much, Joanne. You have no idea how I pleased I become when I hear of someone reading because they wish to engage themselves. I wish the term “bookworm” didn’t exist. In my perfect world, all people would be able to read and write, and they would do both with fervor. There is no denying the benefits of knowledge.

I also think it is darling that you were a little tom-boy. I think you would be cute beyond compare. Just think, if you decide to have children, you may just have a little tom-boy-Joanne scraping her knees and tracking sand onto your pristine, white carpets :)

dnordstrom said...

Erina, I glanced at your blog and it looks like I'll keep an eye on it. "Erina Hart"... I sense greatness in those words.

"In my perfect world, all people would be able to read and write", you say. Well, perfect is a very abstract word and honestly, I don't think anything will or can ever be perfect. Striving for it is great but we have to understand that we're reaching for something that doesn't exist.

But just as it says on one of my domains,, "every generation needs a new revolution." Always remember the fact that what the mind can perceive, it can also achieve. The revolution is closer than you may think; we only need to change the world. We do this by changing individuals and your blog as well as Joanne's have already started the butterfly effect.

"The flapping wing represents a small change in the initial condition of the system, which causes a chain of events leading to large-scale phenomena. Had the butterfly not flapped its wings, the trajectory of the system might have been vastly different."

Keep flapping your wings, please.

Anna said...

Wow, this is such a cool story about you, myself I think I loved books the first time I saw the world just don't remember that until I was 5 years old lol. Again I really enjoyed reading. Anna :)

dcr said...

David: Did you ever read any of the Great Brain books?

Soul Dancer said...

Hi there....I have the same HOARDING problem with books. I reread a Tom Robbinds book every summer, and then descend for a bit to cheesy beach novels, finally to challenge myself with a classic. But every time I reread, I am most curious so see what phrases I underlines, or the comments I wrote as they are a mini diary of the reader that I was. I think one day these books I reread will be entirely underlined!

Looking forward to reading more of your posts, as I am a new blogger!

Soul Dancer

dcr said...

I was thinking "moments of transition" sounded familiar. I thought perhaps it was the title of a Babylon 5 episode. I was part right. It was in a bit of dialogue from the show:

"G'Quan wrote, there is a greater darkness than the one we fight. It is the darkness of the soul that has lost its way. The war we fight is not against powers and principalities. It is against Chaos and Despair. Greater than the death of flesh is the death of hope, the death of dreams. Against this peril we can never surrender. The future is all around us, waiting in moments of transition to be born in moments of revelation. No-one knows the shape of that future or where it will take us. We know only that it is always born in pain."
--G'Kar, Babylon 5, " "Z'ha'dum"

dcr said...

Missed a line from the paragraph the preceded the above quote: "All of life can be broken down into moments of transition or moments of revelation."

Anonymous said...

This is such an interesting post! I loved how your mom making you read one book, changed your world and hooked you into the world of reading. I too will re-read books because depending where I am in my life I will get different meanings out of it.
What I really love is how you are writing your memories and just writing. Keepin writing, you do have a talent for writing and should consider going down this path as a career. Perhaps you already have, but I am new to your blog, so sorry if I missed that part.

Erina Hart said...

Congratulations, Joanne! I have given you an award. Please visit my blog and claim what is yours :)

David said...

dcr - I haven't read the Great Brain, is it good!? =)

Erina Hart said...

“Well, perfect is a very abstract word and honestly, I don't think anything will or can ever be perfect. Striving for it is great but we have to understand that we're reaching for something that doesn't exist.”

Dnordstorm, I never said that perfection was possible. I’m afraid I’ve never lived in a world where such a concept could even dare be reality. I have always understood that perfection is but a mirage in the desert of life.

So I agree, as I always have, that nothing will ever be perfect. However, I do believe that change is possible. And, as for a revolution, I have always hungered for one.

Thank you for responding to my comment. Blogging conversations are always a pleasure. I hope that we become better friends.

dcr said...

David: It was a series of books by John Dennis Fitzgerald. I think I read a couple of them. It was somewhat based on the author's scheming older brother. It's been a long, long time, but I remember them being enjoyable. They are children's books though, so if you didn't read them when you were younger, they may not be as much fun now.

Joanne said...

Dan: Hm, your points are well-put. I see what you mean by "moments of transition" as self-defining. It's something's that hard to describe, this affect of environment, because it's also a mix of the reactions to such all the changes that make up experience. Perhaps, you are right and regardless of environment, we will end up becoming whoever we are meant to be because that's what is our inherent tendecny. But, that just explains the end result and not the process of how we got to this point in our lives. Of experience that affects how we think, not just who we are today.

Daniel: I did read the email you sent, thanks! Just haven't gotten around to a reply. Hahaha, I don't think I'm the best person to go to on how to curb an addiction. On the other hand, if you ever need encouragement to create new addictions...I seem an expert in that area ;)

David: Me, too! I really like as an English translation of all the Chinese classics. Ideally, I'd be able to read it in the original Chinese...but my reading proficiency is elementary, like 5th grade elementary literally. I wonder if I can get my hands on some audio books of the Chinese classics...

Erina: I agree, the fundamentals of education form the basis for opportunity and just a more enriched life all around. HAHA, jeez...that's exactly how my mom teases me. Like, when I sometimes get all smarty-mouthed around her, she likes to warn me that I oughta beware of karma...that I'd get smarty-mouthed brats like me for kids who like torturing mothers.

Anna: Thanks, I'm glad you could enjoy my random storytime, haha. It's weird, I think I have selective memory of certain things that happened in my childhood.

Soul Dancer: You co-blog with Morgan don't you? Glad you visited with a comment! HAHA, I write in some of my books, mini-memo's or something (generally this is for my classics and philosophy books). It's always amusing to be able to look back at what scrawling I cramped into the margins. I like your variety of summer-reading tastes, as I'm the same way! =)

Eileen: I enjoyed reading what you thought, thanks! Haha, I'm not pursuing a writing career...actually of all my different interests, it's one I don't think I ever considered turning into a career. Either way, thanks for the compliment, I will continue writing!

Joanne said...

Erina, Daniel: You guys make some really insightful comments that I agree with. I'm tempted to save it and turn these thoughts into a full-post later. =)

It's another one of those ironies of Life that I enjoy.

Perfection should be striven for but never actually expected to be attained. If we were to think we attained "perfection," we'd all stagnate...or worse, regress. By striving for an ideal, change (as Erina wrote) is thus possible.

Daily life is full of mini-revolutions, at least I like to think so!!

jon said...

There are a few books I read every year. One book in particular leaves me with the sense that it's the first time I'd ever read it.

I'm very attached to these books and experience life in such a variety of ways -over and over - because of them.

Joanne said...

Jon: I'm curious, which book does that for you?? =)

mikkers said...

hear, hear on book reading! As a kid, I was a voracious reader and since my dad's bookshelf only contained such lofty material as "grapes of wrath," "les miserables," and the "the power and the glory" i was initiated into adulthood i think much earlier than other people.

one of the reasons that i suck so badly at math is that during my 4th grade math lessons, i would sneak a book under my desk and read that instead of paying attention. my parents actually got called into the principles office one day because it, which was very embarrassing!

Lewis Empire said...

I originally wanted to quickly write that I liked this posting but it looks like I'm required to write a mini-post in order to be like the rest of the commentators! Obviously this posting hit home for a lot of people.

I was recently listening to an audio business course and the speaker said that while we will spend thousands of dollars on athleatic equipment (that we don't use) and electronics, the average person spends about $20 on their mind each year (don't quote me but it was about $20).

Isn't that a sad statement? The cost of a book these days is almost $40 so for each 2 people in America, only one buys a book each year! Actually, with the number of books some people buy, it's probably closer to 1 in 4.

I think the real secret is in finding a series of books that hit a person's core. When I was little, I didn't read many books (excluding comics and Astrix). It was when I decided to spend a year in Australia that I really started to carry books with me and read more frequently. Once I discovered a few great science fiction series (and later some awesome business books) I was reading much more frequently.

I also re-read books that hit me and changed the way I think. Thanks!

John said...

I linked to your blog from one you read (numeric life, I think). Anyway, I just wanted to say that I've really enjoyed reading it. Ive' become a bit of a blog junkie as of late and enjoy reading others thoughts and rants. I have a collection of books that continues to grow and hate to give them up. They are like old friends. I enjoy rereading them and enjoy introducing others to them (although I tend to be picky about loaning them out!)
The last comment about $ spent on minds is right. Another study showed that only about one in six adults in America read a book last year!

I enjoyed your list of 3's.

I'll bet your mom is agreat lady. It seems as if she ahs raised a wonderful daughter! Keep up with the blogging!


Winston Churchill