By Hamda AlHashemi (@Hamda_AlHashemi)
One of the funniest Arabic proverbs I read was: “He who lends a book is an idiot. He who returns the book is more of an idiot.” Although many might see these two sentences extreme and exaggerated, the idea behind them was very well communicated. It is not the papers and cover, instead, what is within them; all those ideas, theories, facts and opinions that tend to inspire us mentally and emotionally. Do books have the same value as they used to? Do we still seek knowledge like our ancestors did?
There was a time in the past where books were so precious that they were used as money. People had such thirst for education they would have done anything to learn something new. In the time of the Turkish Ottoman Empire that lasted for more than 400 decades, the Sultan’s son used to carry his mentor’s slippers. Why? Because those great minds that lived before us were appreciated. What they knew was inscribed in books for us to learn; their experiences, their lives’ work, all the mistakes and discoveries they made.
These books are precious and we have them everywhere. But because they are more available and easily provided, many of us have come to ignore them and rely on technology and the Internet instead. We seem to forget that exhilarating smell of a new book, the feeling of the paper texture when we flip a page, the ink on paper that reminds us of the value of every letter there.
Artist Brian Dettmer said “Newer media swiftly flips forms, unrestricted by the weight of material and the responsibility of history… History is lost as formats change from physical stability to digital distress.” Dettmer understood the value of a book and decided to interpret this importance of value in a visual way for people to understand better.
He performs “book autopsies” where he takes an existing book and “dissects” it to reflect the contents of the book and show the relations between the ideas reflected in it, but in an artistic way. He uses surgical tools and manipulates pages taking away different parts to emphasize characters, plots, and theories.
Whether it is considered a sculpture, a piece of artwork, or simply a book, a certain idea is emphasized: the way we acquire information is necessary if we want to respect its worth. By holding a book, feeling its weight, and having to pay for someone’s research and hard work, is the least we can do to show our respect. If we will not carry their slippers to show them our appreciation, then we can at least acknowledge their efforts in a 3 Dimensional object that represents them.
There is a library in Thebes that has “medicine for the soul” inscribed on its entrance. That is another important point. We do not expect a doctor to treat us for free. That content on those papers will not only treat our souls, but also feed them with knowledge, inspiration and so much more, that only a good reader will understand.
Helen Exley once said, “Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labeled ‘This could change your life’.” A book is something that helps you improve yourself as a human being. Information, entertainment, socializing; all of these can be enriched through reading. Grab a book right now, even if it is a hundred pages only. You will be done with it and you will be so proud of yourself; and with every word you read, remember to thank the person who shared them with you.
Sail eMagazine’s 19th Issue – October 2011
Here We Start – Art of Living 101 – Community Talk – Just Another Undergrad
Scenes from Life – Syndication – The First Years Last Forever
The Mind’s Eye – Too Blunt for Words – Words, Observations, and Ramblings
Hamda AlHashemi is a 20 something year old interior design graduate, and an SZHP employee. She appreciates art, food, psychology and culture. For her, Arabic calligraphy is music for the eyes; beautiful and calming. She thrives to become an entrepreneur of her own furniture line and aims to get her Phd on the long run. Hamda’s articles revolve around how our psychological thoughts influence our actions, and how to use them to our advantage.