Posts Tagged ‘reading’

SOLITUDE 

The airport is one place that sees the opposite spectra of feelings: sadness in bidding one adieu or happiness in welcoming back a familiar face, a loved face. There is another dimension to the airport. It is a place of solitude particularly when you are a solo traveller. It is an isolation that provides a belated opportunity to simply be and to ruminate. There was, however, a time that being at the airport meant feelings of sadness as I grappled with the closure of one life and the slow process of picking up myself. Those days are gone. These days it gives me the solitude to collect my thoughts, process my feelings, and breathe slowly. It also gives me the much vaunted chanced to read – it is passion that has provided succor and refuge, delight and knowledge.

The Way to Paradise by Mario Vargas Llosa (NAIA, Terminal 2)

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I READ

Reading is never a problem in my family. It is second nature; in fact, it is like breathing. Everyone has a book he/she is plumbing through. I got the habit of bringing a book from my dad who, to this day, brings a book with him when he travels. The number doubles or trebles when I am travelling long distance. While others hit the malls to shop for clothes and shoes, we go to a bookstore first like Kinokuniya at Takashimaya shopping centre when we’re in Singapore.

I first started with Aesop’s fables followed by fairy tales and this anthology I inherited from my Filipino-American cousins in elementary. Mystery books – Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys Frank and Joe Hardy, and the Bobsey Twins – became my favourite. Then my mum introduced me to Sam Spade and the Continental Op, and mystery stories never left the top spot of my reading list. Greek mythology also caught my attention. I actually still have the ratty copy of Edith Hamilton’s “Greek Mythology” that I permanently borrowed from a high school classmate. In university, I was completely taken by Latin American literature with the late Gabriel Garcia Marquez and his legendary “100 Years of Solitude” leading the klatsch of authors. I also forayed into Laura Esquivel’s world and was enraptured by her “Como Agua Para Chocolate”.

Reading never left me even when I entered the rat race. I always had a book especially during lunch, which often left my colleagues staring at each other in consternation. I was, apparently, a poor thing because I was alone. They glossed over the stark fact that I wasn’t since I had a book with me. I did try to establish a routine by not reading during lunch and actually joining them, but it was a mistake because of one incident that is forever seared in my mind. I had moved to another publishing firm that my former editorial assistant had joined. What I read as her newfound confidence turned out to be nothing than asinine pomposity, having earned the status of owner’s pet because, as she confessed, of her practice of giving him sycophantic compliments. So I joined my former assistant and her cohorts for lunch twice then stopped because it was no different from eating lunch alone. She asked why I stopped. I explained that everyone spoke in Mandarin and I was tired of interjecting and asking for the English translation. Her rejoinder: just sit and listen.

Back in the world of teaching, reading plays an important role that should be obvious to educators and parents, but is, lamentably, not. The comments about reading run the gamut of funny to absurd. One student – a seventh grader – said he read “Percy Jackson”, but didn’t understand an iota of it. Apparently, reading is looking at the letters and words until the end, but not connecting them to comprehend the idea. Another – a former 12th grader – said he prefers reading on the Internet than actual books.

Now, one day, about 10 minutes before the start of my class, I saw something that could only be described as a miracle. Obliquely to my right, there he sat reading “Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief”. No matter if this was because I berated him and his classmates last week for their lack of knowledge of pop culture, which, for their age, includes Rick Riordan’s books. Chick magnet, the moniker he gave himself, is finally reading! Fingers crossed that this develops into a life-long habit like mine.

It is a miracle - Chick magnet is reading!

It is a miracle – Chick magnet is finally reading a book!

LOOK AROUND YOU

“Inhale, exhale

Think…

Simplify and breathe…read

The first time I uttered “I’m bored” was the last time I said it.  My parents, particularly my mum, wouldn’t have any of it. She looked at me wryly and said, “Read”, and that I did and have been doing ever since. Reading has been my panacea for the ennui that would drape its arms around my shoulders; it pulls me out of the rut I find myself wallowing in every now and then. Let’s get something straight. When I talk about ennui, it’s not the general tedium experienced by others, which, more often than not, refers to the lack of doing anything exciting or being caught in a routinely life, which I don’t really mind (I like routines to a certain degree), but the restlessness that would settle within and hurl me into the abyss of discontent. Reading gets me out of that abyss because the wheels of logic and deep thoughts start churning, crushing the waves of senselessness.

If reading books literally were a strain to the eyes, I’d read other texts by looking around me. People- watching is one form of reading that I’ve learned to engage in whenever I find myself in Starbucks Coffee Bean Tealeaf, or Cold Stone. I’ve picked up fashion tips at Plaza Senayan just by looking at the women sashaying down the floors of the mall. It’s been ingrained in my mind that no matter how posh the brand is, orange shoes will never go well with a purple bag and a green dress unless you’re auditioning as a clown’s assistant in some show. As for men’s fashion, skinny jeans only look good on Zac Efron; unkempt hair only works for Robert Pattinson; and only the late Michael Jackson is allowed to wear white socks with leather shoes.

Fashion aside, the behaviour and facial expressions of people make for an interesting read. It hones my skills in reading people, making me feel like I am a part of the team of Dr. Cal Lightman, the undisputed human polygraph machine, and his partner, Dr. Gillian Foster, the very talented psychologist in the American TV show “Lie to Me”. For example, according to Dr. Lightman, a slight upward tug of the lips suggest a feeling of dislike while a crinkling within the eye area suggests very strong emotions of fear or abject horror. And that automatic shrug of the shoulder stands for outright lying. Of course, reading people isn’t as easy as reading the written pages of a book, but it does help even for a bit in uncovering the lies that lie beneath the surface – white lie or otherwise.

Boredom will always be there if you let the mind come to a standstill. I turn to reading, my wizard’s staff of invincibility, to stay the onslaught of complacency, impatience and a head-on plunge into hell.