When was the last time you bought a book? Or rather, when was the last time you read a book? Think really hard. Okay, let’s go with this: when was the last time you bought a film? Yep, you know what’s coming next, when was the last time you watched a film? On average the latter will be the question most of you will know the answer to – but is it something to be proud of?
WELL DONE! You managed to settle for a mind-exhausting 120 minutes and observe an interlocutor speculate with another in order to solve the predicament they find themselves in that, once solved won’t matter very much. Sometimes there might even be a musical number that will challenge you to wonder why Hitchcock used an Icelandic band’s song instead of Beyonce’s number 1 from last week. Why be proud of just watching a film? Me? I’d choose the second (don’t worry I won’t make you read this whole thing all over again). When was the last time I read a book? I always have a book on the go, and whether I have a free period at school or I’m getting the train into London, I will grab every opportunity I have to read. “I do want to read, it’s just I don’t have time!” don’t lie to yourself; the answer is you simply aren’t making time and as a result you are cheating yourself of a very personal experience. But I guess it’s the culture now a days, we are going through phase that I like to call Settle & Snooze.
This is a very simple phase yet may take a while to get your head around. As humans it is our nature to be lazy and find the easiest way out – like in the stone age when we made tools for hunting – taking the easy way makes tasks easier and allows us to conserve energy that may be of use later. But settling for a film is not the same, not only are you conserving a lot of energy, you are literally shutting down parts of your brain and making it ‘snooze’ as it were. Books on the other hand lead you to various places that a film would only let you observe.
Have you ever heard of Wayne Dyer’s lemon story (if you haven’t look it up)? This proves that something as simple as words can physically change the body as well as your mind. Picturing the lemon in your hand, biting into it’s tough skin, tasting the bitterness as the juices ooze out into your mouth. Reading activates the senses that the big screen only blocks. In the Life of Pi you can taste the salt water, The Great Gatsby you can smell the alcohol in Jay’s house, Fractured you can hear that car coming towards your own window. Opening a book opens up your imagination to a world you create, filled with a spectrum of colours. It lets you read the character’s innermost thoughts and feelings; the doubts, fears, and hopes that they don’t even reveal to other characters. How can you get that in a film?
The culture we have grown up in has made us completely different to our grandparents, a mere two generations before us; we wake up and check our phones – the only thing allowing us to communicate with the outside world from the comfort of our bed that we don’t leave until midday if that. But, what about before smartphones? Or even, brace yourself, before the landline? Writing and books were the only way of communicating, sharing and spreading stories. With new technologies our memories will perish and the only proof they were ever there will be the pictures we are tagged in on facebook.
Last week, for example, I was on the train going into London to visit my dad and was completely absorbed in a book. This meant that I was missing the picture perfect image outside. I looked around me at my fellow passengers and over three quaters of them were on their phones – talking, typing and tweeting – the only other reader on board, an old lady who probably doesn’t even know what number iPhone has just been released. None of the 20 or so settlers and snoozers were just relaxing, enjoying the ride and making the most of how much countryside the British Isles have to offer, something that when I was a kid I would’ve loved to experience.
Take the book Fahrenheit 451, a novel set in a world where books are banned and firemen are ordered to burn down houses containing them. People are entertained through TV, radios, and snippets of news. Clarisse questions this world and so do I. It was even written to critique the culture that thrives on quick access to partial knowledge as opposed to the one that rewards those who dig for deeper meanings.
Isn’t that one of the most important things about finishing a book; working through it and finding these deeper meanings? In a book, nothing else exists and you live the life of a different person, created by your imagination; the girl living with cancer, the animals at war with themselves, the boy surviving with the tiger, or the lady running the tea shack. You can become them, feel what they feel, know what they know, and live how they live.
This is a little editorial I wrote for my Creative Writing class, I hope you enjoyed