When we practice a skill, sing from our hearts, or listen to our family stories, we are READING. A need to read! Opus est ergo lego.

Opus est ergo lego. I read: therefore, I read. I know. Trying to be too clever, and it does not have that oomph of Descartes, cogito ergo sum. But man, was Descartes a reader (and philosopher, mathematician, soldier, globe trotter, you name it). But I’m going to stick to it-opus est ergo lego-I need: therefore, I read.  A mantra for our OCCC community this fall semester.

I love seeing commercials for local summer reading programs. In OKC, the commercials are for both children and teenagers. Reading is FUNdamental! Read for a summer cool! The need to read! Reading Rainbow! If only we could all know that rich connection to life through reading, and if we could all have the social privilege of growing up in homes with books and reading time. Alas, not the case. Ben Franklin knew democracy needed a reading leg up (lego, hee-hee) as the bringer of public libraries. Descartes knew this to as the thinker for his modern age and a civilized need to move beyond authorities such as the Church. Think of the rather large banned book list-the Index Librorum Prohibitorium-of the church as more thinkers were publishing new ideas. Big new ideas like heliocentric and new laws of motion and ideas of planets. Thinkers of the new world you and I inhabit. Hobbes, Spinoza, Pascal, Milton, Locke, Defoe. And in some circles even today, caution is exercised when it comes to publishing ideas. Think of the state textbook committees who watch over the ideas of evolution or in the news today, the unreasoned fear over “critical race theory”. Those in need of a certain political power often attack ideas and books. I propose one point of argument for more reading in our world as, “Hey, it’s a radical thing to do!”

It may not surprise you that I am married to a librarian. She has a deep spirit for wanting all the students of her school to discover the life-changing joy of reading. Alas, she battles every day for that hope of all discovering the joy of reading. She talks sometimes of the students who come to the library during lunch for some refuge. Refuge from a too noisy lunchroom, bullying, hearing foul language, crowded space. Refuge for quiet time, getting lost in a good book for a few minutes, feeling safe, meeting other kindred, quiet souls. These students help me to think that our society is sometimes divided out like this:  readers and not readers, those needing reflective down time and those needing constant stimulation.  The reading I refer to here is the reading of print-children’s books, young adult literature, self-help books, essays, poetry, histories, textbooks, etc. That writing which inspires, brings us to unseen beauty, tells a story of truth, celebrates the awe of language, teaches life skills. I ask, who wants to live without any of that! These things have so much to do with the sorting our of sunlight and shadow in one’s life. 

Not all meaningful societies have been literate societies, and I must say, being a literate society does not necessarily mean being a good society, but our fore[fathers] had great hope that our American society would be a literate society, a good citizen would be a literate citizen. If you want some inspiration for this notion, put the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. on your bucket list. The best of our music, film, and literature are kept there just for us to access and enjoy. But hey, any public library will do. Amazing stacks of books, connections to community activities, film and music all for free. One of our national heritages and legacies. Yet, too, the reading of books is not the only heritage to our America. Native American oral culture, African American oral culture, and Hispanic oral culture carry just as much law, progress, and understanding as our libraries.

Which brings me to my main point. Reading is a human skill that has marked us across the millennium. In Native American understanding, one metaphor for education is hunting. That the hunter learns to READ the animal signs, READ the weather, READ the terrain, READ the economy of enough, and READ the spiritual text of respect for life and gratitude for gifts of nourishment and materials. The African American Spirituals that hold the chronicles of slavery and suffering and also hold the powerful spirit of survival and hope and change. The multi-generational stories passed down as hope and wisdom for better times. When we practice a skill, sing from our hearts, or listen to our family stories, we are READING. A need to read! Opus est ergo lego.

We read signs, we read faces, we read other people’s feelings (and usually rather poorly), we read “the writing on the wall”. We read the back of cereal boxes (a favorite of my childhood pastime!). We read commercials. We read people (again perhaps not too well). The point: we are readers by nature and need. As a reader, then, it is but a small step into the more apt reading for school and pleasure. Somewhere in the last decades we may have unintentionally smothered the joy of that reading in our educational fervor. Maybe I can’t fix that, but I do want to ask you to rethink where you are in your reading life.

Where are you in your reading life? Do you do the work needed in a formal education, and just as importantly, do you allow time for the sheer joy that a good book in your hands brings? The question itself brings me to your greatest need as a reader. Reading yourself! It is going to be both your most important reading in life and your best writing in life, all at once. You are a text that others read, whether you wish that or not!  It is where we are in human evolution, and I dare say, it is where we always have been as humans in a social context. If you are fortunate enough as a student to take our Critical Thinking class as a 3 hour humanities course, the final lesson is about branding yourself as a your own person of value, hope, and worth. If not a student, then your professional responsibilities and hope for advancement have you doing branding yourself, too.

READ THYSELF. What are your dreams? Values? Voice? Talents/skills? Situations? Nature of your relationships? The redraft of your self-narrative/essay? Your book is a tome my friend. Your book is also the holder of essential knowledge for you as journey and sing and love your way through life. And there is a trick hear. To read/know yourself better and get the most out of your book, it so helps to elicit help from those who have spoken or written or creatively expressed their own journeys. That could take you to a concert, a college classroom, a book club, a good film, a quiet sit with yourself or a friend. Maybe even a library! If the OCCC library, you will be welcome and well-cared for. I love our librarians. They are there for you the student and you the staff and you the reader who reads for joy. Turn a page soon, especially your page!

Professor Charles Dickens Morrow

Go Humanities and libraries!

About Post Author