The book insists on closing itself. The pages themselves aren’t stiff, but the spine is more of a clamp than a hinge. Sometimes it feels like the book doesn’t want to be read. What would it be for then? A combustible bundle stuffed on shelves for ornamentation? Oh well. At least it’s light, it’s not tiring to hold up. Spots of sunlight fall on the pages, filtered through tree leaves. Go ahead, relax, lean a little backwards. Feel the grassy slope. This park is a nice place to be in, and few things feel as good as spending the time here just reading. The world is at peace, but another world beckons from the between the lines of the book. Now, if only cover’s a little more flexible and the book’s a little easier to keep wide open.

As far as I can tell, one thing all avid readers come to love about the act of reading is the profound calm that it brings. Of all the forms of entertainment available to the modern individual, reading is the least pompous. It is also subtle for it is, at once, the least engaging and yet the most demanding. And in this manner, it often provides readers with a deep sense of peace, an experience that few other activities can give.

In contrast to, say, a movie, which is a sustained spoon-feeding of full-color widescreen images and rich surround sound, a book is incredibly shy and will offer you only black letterforms on white pages. To transform these letters into rich mental images, a lot of creativity and experience has to be summoned. A book doesn’t call your attention out loud; it only hands out a quiet invitation to another world, with the clear disclaimer that you will have to put in a lot of work yourself.

Reading, if you think about it, is a curious process. Because all the action takes place in the mind, reading requires the reader to be physically nearly motionless. Only the eyes move, that most subtle part of all the body. And yet, the book continually instructs the reader’s mind to form images of movement. The committed, obedient reader will exert tremendous mental effort to connect the dots, recall visual memories, and develop the ideas. Therefore the act of reading is a voluntary effort to keep still, on the outside, physically, so that the reader can produce action within the privacy of the mind.

Subtle, for it does not engage and yet it demands. It’s tiring, but the prize is an incomparable feeling of serenity.

The sun hangs low now from the sky, and it’s quickly sinking. Time to wrap up. Gather your belongings, roll the mat. Books have a way of starting slow, but the turning of the pages accelerate, and before you know it the back cover’s the only thing your right hand is grasping. Oh, look, the spine yielded, and now it seems the book wants to keep itself open.


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