I've loved that quote since I came across it as a teenager about 397 years ago; it resonated with me from the first moment I read it. You see, I had a troubled youth from the day I first went to school as I was racially vilified and was quite brutalised and books became somewhat of an escape for me.
I remember hating my parents as a five year old for sending me back each day. I'd gone from a loving home environment into a hostile one in which I was the 'wrong colour' and had a funny name which the other kids thought was good enough reason to beat me up, taunt and ostracize me and destroy my property: School bag, clothing books, art projects and so on. I hated it. Hated them and hated me, for being whatever they saw in me.
I endured though.
At the time I didn't know my ability to do so would save my life in years to come, inspire great success and in general permit a fulfilled life. In short, I gained valuable lessons: character, perseverance, the ability to stand alone and inner-strength. Thanks bullies, I appreciate it. But it was a tough childhood, from that respect at least.
I discovered the joy of reading at nine with J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and then Lord of the Rings Trilogy but once discovered I was lost in the world of books and found an escape through thousands of words and the stories they weaved. When reading I was somewhere else where the real world could not reach me.
I did many things as a kid: Sports, played the piano, listened to music, played like a normal kid and got into strife also, but reading was a constant, every day. It was my salvation and through those books I learned to cope with the real world and it's challenges a little better; the books and my parents of course.
When I saw that quote by Charles W. Eliot I felt it was written for me. Books were my friends, valued counselor and through their patient lessons I learned to be a better little kid, teenager then man. I am me now because of books and reading.
I remember crying about the treatment I received; an every day thing as a five year old and beyond. I also remember when I shed my last tears brought on by the disgusting treatment I was subjected to. I was ten.
I'd read a book called Roots by Alex Haley which chronicles the American slave trade and in particular his own family history. I decided I didn't have it so bad after all and I never cried about the treatment again - It continued of course, right up until I took out years of frustration on an unfortunate kid when I was around fifteen years old. It didn't end well for that young chap. The taunting stopped though.
I felt terrible later as the kid was pretty messed up but at the time my anger and hate took over and that kid paid the price on behalf of everyone else. I also learned about my ability to do great violence and my overwhelming need to protect those who cannot do so for themselves which served me well later in life. But at that point I was ashamed of myself because I knew what I did was wrong.
That was many years ago now though, and whilst I've done this and that over the years it's been different, not the blind rage I experienced as a teen; more calculated, strategized and sanctioned actions. These days...I'm still just me, but I'm better, smarter and just a little more wise - I think I'm a good person mostly though some may digress. I still have a strong protective nature and a feeling to swiftly and effectively prosecute those who prey upon the weak.
Another thing that remained unchanged has been my passion to read; I still read physical books too, not on a device; I like the sound of pages turning, feel of a book in hand and the smell of ink and paper. It reminds me of those moments of wonder as a little nine year old tacker working my way through all of those books and the way they would carry me away from the suffering I endured.
Today I began a new book, the second in the Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist. You're probably not aware but my State went into a stay-at-home lockdown because of the flu a few days ago so I've been at home. Normally I'd be outside a lot but I've been reading and writing as the weather has been terrible. I've enjoyed it.
I've powered through the almost thousand pages of book one and I'm a chapter into the secundum librum - the second book - called Silverthorn which expands on the first, delves deeper into an incredible threat that approaches but is essentially an adventure story based around a man's quest to find a cure for his poisoned wife. I've read these books before, years ago, but am enjoying revisiting Feist's world thoroughly.
We're all different people with contrasting feelings, thoughts, motivations and motivators; it's what keeps things interesting. Some may never experience what I did and many will have far worse experiences. That's just life. I don't attach stories to events in my life with a view to making excuses, they were just things that happened. In fact I'm glad they did as I learned many valuable lessons, built character and found courage. Those events also led me to books which have become one of the most enjoyable aspects of my life.
Complex and simple is how I describe me; you'd have to be me to truly understand what that means although there's maybe one or two here on hive that may see it. Finding peace, a centre-point, is something I work hard at and achieving it through books is one of my methods. Writing is another, hiking also.
It's Saturday 24 July and I've been finding peace all day. Outside gale-force winds howl, it's cold and heavy rain falls; a storm much the same as that which I faced as a kid. Inside it's serene, warm, my cat Cleo sits on my outstretched legs sleeping and I'm comforted by my book as I was all those years ago.
Design and create your ideal life, don't live it by default - Tomorrow isn't promised so be humble and kind