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Friday
Apr132007

on reading

"To read well, that is, to read true books in a true spirit, is a noble exercise, and one that will task the reader more than any exercise which the customs of the day esteem."

It is my feeling and my hope that the above quotation, written by Henry David Thoreau, applies to the last 10 years of my life. Although I've accomplished a few other, and lesser, things since 2000, I believe that my greatest accomplishment has been the number of classic books I've chosen to read.

It's actually a bit strange. While I was completing a graduate degree in Fine Art between 1997 and 1999, I found myself secretly reading Lao Tsu. And, after finishing my official university studies, I found myself reading almost obsessively - diving into the psychological writings of William James, Carl Jung, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, Thomas Moore, and James Hillman; then on to the stoics Epictetus and Seneca; then to poets Rilke, Mallarme, and Gibran; human mythology so wonderfully explained by Joseph Campbell; and finally, on to essays by Emerson, Bacon, and Montaigne.

Montaigne particularly interested me, as can be seen in some of the other pages of stillbook. After spending about two years reading and re-reading his essays, I was always amazed by the intimacy and honesty of his writing. Reading Montaigne's work has been truly foundational, as I have since tried to write in a style completely my own. Or perhaps I should say.... as I've tried to forget my style of writing, so that I may express myself and my thoughts in the most personal, and therefore, the most unique way that I am able.

I suppose you could label me a chain reader - the writing and wisdom of one author always seems to lead me to another. Writers like Yutang and Emerson lead me to Montaigne, who, in turn, lead me to myself.

But, my interest in Montaigne predictably faded slowly, eventually reaching a conclusion back in 2004. Since then, though I've continued to read, I have felt a bit directionless, even lost, intellectually. Perhaps I needed a break, or some time in the darkness, in order to appreciate the next creative awakening.

So now, after a few winding intellectual and business experiments, I am returning to my writing and to the noble exercise I've come to love. Fueled by a growing number of walks through several parks and trails in my hometown, I have been rediscovering my creative energies. Photography and Thoreau have been my most welcome discoveries.

While Montaigne was my indoor cafe' campanion, Thoreau has become my outdoor hiking companion.

In the journal entries that follow, Thoreau will sometimes be quoted and mentioned by name. Other times, however, he will only be represented in spirit. His accute perceptions and uncanny insights into the nature of the world and into the nature of humanity will always be kept fresh in my mind. Considering the extent to which he was misunderstood and underappreciated during his own life, paying homage to his spirit in stillbook is something I feel happy, even honored, to do.

So, happy reading. I hope that in some small way this journal will be uplifting to whomever explores its pages.