“When I am attacked by gloomy thoughts, nothing helps me so much as running to my books. They quickly absorb me and banish the clouds from my mind.”
I will never forget the first time I grabbed a book to help myself. I was a teenager. I had the usual teenage troubles, a bit of bullying here and there, sexuality discovery and problems in my house. You know, the usual, but to a kid, at that age, they aren’t usual, of course. They seem to be the end of the world.
I’d love to tell you that the first book I grabbed was The Aeneid, or The Odyssey, that I first learned courage from characters such as Achilles or Hector, but my self-discovery, my self-learning, wasn’t as fancy, at first.
No, to tell you the truth, it was with Harry Potter. Which is not bad at all, I mean, he did defeat Voldemort in the end. And later on, I grabbed another book from a dumb comedian from my country, Yordi Rosado, which I’m not even sure he wrote it himself, but whatever, it helped me understand myself a bit more. It was an important first step though, because, through that dumb book, I discovered that books weren’t just for entertainment, but that they had answers as well, however dumb. Answers not even my parents had.
I wonder how many troubles could be solved with books. And with troubles I’m thinking about anxiety and depression. Those two things run rampant. We all feel depressed at times, we all feel anxious, but when you read, most of the times you discover that you were ‘just trippin’.
What do you mean by this?Well, ask yourself about freedom in this time of ours; doesn’t it consist simply in the power to live as we wish?
Absolutely. Tell me then, you people, do you wish to live in error?
We do not.
That’s right; no one is free who is in error. Do you wish to live in fear and sorrow and disturbance?
So, no one who is fearful or sorrowful or disturbed is free, but the person who is relieved of sorrows and fears and disturbances is relieved of enslavement by the very same process. — Epictetus
Do you see what I mean?
That’s what reading does to you, it shows you how wrong you are. It’s like a bucket of cold water thrown on a drunkard’s face.
A bad acid trip
A few years ago, my friends and I went on a trip to a lake near our city. We took acid with us.
Everything was amazing. We dropped the acid in the afternoon and we were completely alone, the setup couldn’t have been better. Good vibes everywhere. Until… a guy began knocking on the door of the house. The house was open in a way that you could see the back of the house garden pointing towards the lake, with a dock. So, the guy decided it was a good idea to let himself in to where we were tripping balls on acid.
My friend, the owner of the house, didn’t knew who he was. The guy arrived with a couple of beers on him and you could tell that he was looking for a party. We weren’t in the mood for handling a drunk guy on acid. Especially my other mate, let’s call him, Panchito.
Eventually, my mate and I managed to tell him nicely to get the hell out of the house and away. Even with the guy’s insistence on having some girls and a couple of more friends coming over to party. Jesus, it was hard to get him out, especially on acid. But we managed to do it.
When we got back to the house, Panchito was freaking out. Apparently, the experience of having to deal with such an annoying person on acid, tripped him out in a bad way. He was having the worst trip of his life.
We were chilling, and suddenly, He ran inside of the house while yelling: “I’m going to die!!!! Ah!!!!! Ah!!!!!”
I’m telling you, scary stuff, I myself struggled not to let his bad trip spill over to my brain. He kept yelling as he went to look at his face in the bathroom’s mirror, while at the same time pulling his hair like an absolute lunatic.
He came back to us, and we would just feign everything was cool. He stayed with us for a while, sort of thinking, he looked meditative. After a while, I believe our calm vibe spilled over him, and he began yelling: “Ah!!!!! I get it now!!!! I get it!!!!!” He looked relieved.
We were happy about it, we ourselves were relieved as well, but then, he went to the restroom yelling that he was going to die again. Haha, I’m laughing right now as I remember, but it wasn’t funny back then.
It came to a point when it was already late at night, and my mate was eating a watermelon by the pool, the water around him looked a bit red. Panchito came out and when he saw my mate with the knife and the watermelon, like a little innocent kid, his face fool of unspeakable horror, he asked us while covering his mouth with his hand and pointing my mate: “Why is he cutting his arms???”
Can you imagine!?
Eventually, we sat down to talk. We began talking about life and stuff and I remember that this quote came out:
Be like a duck. Calm on the surface, but always paddling like the dickens underneath.
After Panchito read it, something clicked inside of him. He wasn’t yelling anymore, he looked a bit more controlled.
A simple sentence saved him. A few letters on a cellphone eased his maniac trip.
The words you need
I just told you the most extreme example that has ever happened to me regarding the issue. But if you think that my mate Panchito is just crazy, I’d tell you that you’re wrong. He isn’t any crazier than you and I, he just had a really bad acid trip.
Think about yourself. How many times have you find yourself in a situation where you couldn’t see the way out. It happens quite often.
Quite often, you’re ‘just trippin’
You find yourself in need of words. You can’t understand something with your current mindset, you need your mates to show you the duck quote for you to be able to step out of the bad trip and into understanding.
Those mates are books.
Nearly every book has the same architecture — cover, spine, pages — but you open them onto worlds and gifts far beyond what paper and ink are, and on the inside they are every shape and power. Some books are toolkits you take up to fix things, from the most practical to the most mysterious, from your house to your heart, or to make things, from cakes to ships. Some books are wings. Some are horses that run away with you. Some are parties to which you are invited, full of friends who are there even when you have no friends. In some books you meet one remarkable person; in others a whole group or even a culture. Some books are medicine, bitter but clarifying. Some books are puzzles, mazes, tangles, jungles. Some long books are journeys, and at the end you are not the same person you were at the beginning. Some are handheld lights you can shine on almost anything.
The books of my childhood were bricks, not for throwing but for building. I piled the books around me for protection and withdrew inside their battlements, building a tower in which I escaped my unhappy circumstances. There I lived for many years, in love with books, taking refuge in books, learning from books a strange data-rich out-of-date version of what it means to be human. Books gave me refuge. Or I built refuge out of them, out of these books that were both bricks and magical spells, protective spells I spun around myself. They can be doorways and ships and fortresses for anyone who loves them.
And I grew up to write books, as I’d hoped, so I know that each of them is a gift a writer made for strangers, a gift I’ve given a few times and received so many times, every day since I was six.
What book to read?
It really doesn’t matter. But in this day and age, google can give you pretty useful hints, just google your malady and you’ll begin your journey outside of it. But it doesn’t have to be just a malady, of course, some books will pull you up, and get you ready for adventure.
If I could give anyone any advice, it would be this, read. Read, read and venture upon the world. It will save you. It will inspire you. It will be the closest you’ll ever be able to understand yourself.
“I seek in the reading of my books only to please myself by an irreproachable diversion; or if I study it is for no other science than that which treats of the knowledge of myself, and instructs me how to die and live well.”
― Michel de Montaigne
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