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It is not just reading: it is meeting other minds

Several years ago, a good friend of mine, also an avid reading like myself, asked me, “How many books are you reading?” “Books”, in plural, because he shared and still shares that passion for reading several books at the same time.

Times are different now and books are no longer as popular as they used to be. Yet, they are an excellent tool to meet other minds. Reading is not just “skating over the page” (as Ortega y Gasset once warned). At its core, it is meeting other minds. 

Obviously, if you want to meet other minds, first you need to meet your own mind. And that’s one of the fascinating (and frequently forgotten) aspects of reading: it is an internal dialogue, a reflection about oneself, a moment of meditation oscillating between the conscious and the unconscious mind when, for just a moment, we become aware of ourselves. 

My passion for reading began before college, where I was reading several books per week and later, at the end of the studies, a book per day or so. 

In fact, my passion for reading began when I was a little boy and every weekend my father took me to a secondhand bookstore and bought me took books. I selected one and he selected the other one. I had to read both of them before getting two more used books the following week. (I still had many of those books.)

Later, when I was a teenager, I discovered the benefits of public libraries and I went every week to the library, borrowed two books for seven days, read them, returned them, and borrowed two new books for the next seven days. Before returning the books, I wrote a summary of each book. (I still have many of those handwritten notes.)

But, what’s the point of talking about my reading habits, as if they were of any importance? In fact, it is irrelevant to know how many books I read. What is relevant is to know that today’s readers are tomorrow’s leaders, as it has been said many times. The reason, according to numerous studies, is that reading causes the brain to prepare the person for the reality presented in the books. 

For example, just a few days ago, researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder published a scientific report confirming what many people (Einstein included) already knew: imagination changes reality. In fact, according to those researchers, the brain doesn’t separate imagination from reality and needs to learn how to do it. 

So, how do we learn to distinguish imagination from reality, without canceling either of them and learning from both of them? It seems one of the answers is reading, because digital media doesn’t generate the internal dialogue books create. Again, when we read, we prepare ourselves for a new reality. 

I am not proposing going back to the past I am proposing meeting ourselves again for the first time in the context of a new future we can seldom imagine. 

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