Saturday, December 16, 2006

Decorating with Books

It's a sad indictment of our culture when people are more interested in decorating with books than actually reading them. Thoreau once called books the fit inheritance of man, although I doubt he had their use as a decoration in mind. "Books by the foot" have become all the rage, and are a major source of income for used booksellers. While a certain set of fashionistas adorn their dwellings with books, educators similarly decorate their classrooms with books that students never read in order to gain points on researchers' checklists. I don't know if people actually believe that ideas are passed through osmosis, but as any college student who has fallen asleep with their head on a textbook can attest--ideas are not transmitted in such an easy way. Gaining knowledge requires work. To become intelligent about the contents of a book requires actually reading it. There is no "royal road" to learning.

It is interesting to consider that people who are true lovers of books often attempt to hide the "paper mess" that books create, embarrassed by their wealth of knowledge, while those who care least for books show them off.

In this milieu, books serve as a poor indicant of knowledge. I read the other day, however, that vegetarians have an IQ an average of 5 points higher than non-vegetarians. Perhaps diet--requiring a certain action/in-action on the part of an individual--serves a better indicant of an individual's intelligence. (Of course, this would not serve as a perfect indicant in India, since vegetarianism is tied to religion and tradition rather than being motivated by individual thoughtfulness; nevertheless, vegetarianism might serve as a fair indicant in the US).


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