My father suffered a massive bleed in his brain over the holidays. We noticed that his behaviour had changed a little, and he seemed to be reaching for words. He spent a lot of time sleeping and didn’t want to join in the usual chaos with the Nans. Something he has always embraced with imagination and endless patience. My mom and I had agreed that I would call Dad’s doctor when they got home, and let him know I was worried about what seemed to be a profound depression with some loss of focus and some personality shift. But nature had other plans and the day after they had left Cape Town, I was on the plane to Johannesburg to meet my mother at a Clinic – my father was undergoing brain surgery.
I’m not going to write about that now. It’s all too fresh and I haven’t processed how I feel. He’s recovering – but, as the surgeon says – it’s a process. And we need to give it time. And right now time has coalesced into visiting hours and the time between visiting hours.
So I have been reading – books have always been my refuge, my mom’s and younger brother Chris’ (who came from London yesterday) too. She prefers lighter/slice of life/romance novels, he reads widely – particularly biography and history (current pick: The Railway Man) and I will entertain most comers – except Science Fiction/Fantasy, Russian classics and slush. Must be modern.
Right now my kindle is busy with Neil Young’s biography “Waging Heavy Peace” (one for diehard fans only – so I won’t elaborate), the new Harry Hole novel … always worth a canter, and I have been dipping into “Does My Goldfish Know Who I Am”. I wrote about it a few weeks ago, and the combination of great questions and brilliant answers have made me smile when I haven’t felt much like smiling.
So – in honour of books and as thanks for all the times they come to our rescue – I want to share this piece. The question: “Why do we have books?” was posed by 9-year-old Otillie, and answered by the smart and infinitely curious Maria Popova of Brain Pickings.
“Some people might tell you that books are no longer necessary now that we have the internet. Don’t believe them. Books help us know other people, know how the world works, and, in the process, know ourselves more deeply in a way that has nothing to with what you read them on and everything to do with the curiosity, integrity and creative restlessness you bring to them.
Books build bridges to the lives of others, both the characters in them and your countless fellow readers across other lands and other eras, and in doing so elevate you and anchor you more solidly into your own life. They give you a telescope into the minds of others, through which you begin to see with ever greater clarity the starscape of your own mind.
And though the body and form of the book will continue to evolve, its heart and soul never will. Though the telescope might change, the cosmic truths it invites you to peer into remain eternal like the Universe.
In many ways, books are the original internet – each fact, each story, each new bit of information can be a hyperlink to another book, another idea, another gateway into the endlessly whimsical rabbit hole of the written word. Just like the web pages you visit most regularly, your physical bookmarks take you back to those book pages you want to return to again and again, to reabsorb and relive, finding new meaning on each visit – because the landscape of your life is different, new, “reloaded” by the very act of living.”