A Little article I wrote about reading

It never got printed in the end but I thought I'd share it with you anyway

                                  You are what you read

From the scripts of the ancient Nile Valley and Mesopotamia to the Quipu
system of notation using knots and thread in medieval America through to the
most enduring system still widely in use (Chinese) via numerous other
variations to this the Roman script that I am currently communicating in,
the process of symbol creation and codification we call writing is in many
ways one of the quintessential human and humanizing processes. As we embark
on our quest of naming the world, writing attempts to distill our realities,
or perceived realities and preserve ideas, thoughts or feelings in a
permanent or (given the destruction of many of the greatest collections of
books throughout the ages) semi-permanent state. Of course many of the now
most acclaimed and sought after written works began life as oral traditions
and their credited Œauthors¹ are people that told rather than wrote them
(the Malian epic of Sunjata and the Homeric epics are two famous examples).
One may ask whether this rendering of such works into a committed form locks
them into a static state where the creativity and potential for evolution in
such tales is rendered dormant. That is a valid discussion in some respects
but writers seem to re-interpret and re-tell other writers ideas and motifs
just as readily and dramatically as oral communicants.

Perhaps this is because if writing is a process of crystallization, reading
is quite the opposite, that is, a process of the most spectacular
transformation. It was reading that transformed a young man from Stratford
Upon-Avon with no formal university education into the most revered writer
in the English language, it was reading that transformed a 25 year old
Œstreet hustler¹ in prison nicknamed ŒRed¹ into one of the centuries most
noted political intellectuals, it was his access to literature unlike so
many of the other millions of Africans in bondage in the Americas that not
only enabled but somehow forced Toussaint L¹Ouverture to lead the Haitian
revolution that eventually compromised the entire trans Atlantic Œslave
trade¹. It is this potential for transformation, self-discovery and
evolution that is readings almost sacred purpose. The way we are able to
communicate with fictional characters and narratives that are somehow more
real than anything we have ever physically experienced. The way these
narratives serve as archetypes to meditate upon. The ways we each process
these ideas differently but they inevitably change who we are and thus who
we are to become.

Anyone familiar with the work of Japanese professor Masaru Emoto will be
well aware of the transformational power of words. For those not familiar
let me briefly elucidate: Professor Emoto experiments basically consist of
examining frozen water crystals under a microscope whilst speaking different
words at the water or even just passing pieces of paper with particular
written words inscribed on them over the water whilst monitoring if the
presence of different words changes the crystal structure of the water in
any way. What he overwhelmingly found (crazy as it may seem to many who have
never studied Quantum phenomena) was that positive, loving, affirmative
words caused the water crystals to align in a way that made them look like
beautiful often geometrically perfect snowflakes and that hateful,
offensive, degrading words caused the crystals to form ugly Œdistressed¹
shapes. Now if we are 70% water and simple words and phrases have this
effect on water then what is the power of stanza¹s, pages, whole books worth
of either degrading or inspiring information on not only the human Œwater¹
but psyche as well?

I have personally as a young man growing up experienced many conflicts that
arose simply out of two people not being able to communicate what they
really wanted to say effectively and we¹ve all had family members or spouses
that we wish were more commutative or have wished that of we ourselves had
better command of the language. This command of the language and expression
does bring about a radical change in how we feel about who we are and thus
how we act in society. This is again the vocation of reading. Not some
elitist activity to only be partaken in by old professors in dusty halls
with classes full of Victorian thinkers ready to espouse, robot like
whatever they have read verbatim. Not only is that vision of who is and who
should be reading silly, it¹s outdated and always was astoundingly

Reading is about learning to think for your self and not
swallowing something wholeheartedly just because it¹s been committed to
page. However one cannot deny that we live in a culture torn, in which
reading for the masses of the people is continually being degraded as an art
and being presented in a way not too dissimilar to the stereotypical
depiction above, with vacuous celebrity driven hyper-materialism being
marketed (especially to the young) as the preferred cool, aspirational
lifestyle. I have worked with thousands of young people (or people younger than
myself!) and see first hand everyday just how damaging these ideologies are
to peoples self-esteem, their outlook on the world and ultimately their
behavior and belief of what they feel is possible or attainable to them.
Fortunately I also see just how strong the desire to be educated (the root
meaning of the educate is to Œdraw out that which is within¹) is in ALL
young people once it is switched on or stimulated in the way of dialogue not

However education does not occur in a cultural vacuum and if
we are to be the society we can be and the world we can be in 21st century
the way in which we market, view and treat education and reading has to
change dramatically. Ultimately those who really shape our societies are the
so called Œgeeks¹, technicians, architects, engineers, doctors, philosophers
etc so anyone that is telling you these same people are not cool is either
very confused or trying to limit you in life.

7 responses
I have never thought about writing being the opposite of reading yet it makes sense. A crystallization of thoughts, a true 'living in the moment' caught to later be interpreted and deciphered.

This is why you're one of my favorite artists, even though I'm not from the UK i'm still a huge fan of your words and music.

I really enjoyed reading this man. This is a really important message, and particularly resonated with regard to the escalation of conflict and unhealthy power balance when people don't have vocabularies to hand. I was reminded of the prologue to Tony Harrison's poem 'V'.

'My father still reads the dictionary every day.
He says your life depends on your power to master words.'

And beneath actual storytelling and mapping of contexts that give people real world changing identity and strength, words as a conduit for more mystical and reality enhancing experiences, thats where poetry changes the world!

Thanks for sharing. You may be interested in this really simple and unpretentious piece by Hunter Diack...


That was a brilliant read, very insightful, especially the bit on Masaru Emoto, I hadn't known that. I agree with you too, reading is so powerful.
Loved that article, and its crazy that I have never thought about the idea of reading being the opposite of writing, I mean ACTUALLY thought about the concept and what it means... I totally agree with you on the point of conflict resolution and I think the lack of this type of teaching in general is one of the reasons why our communities and even the world is in the state its in. Its amazing what can happen when 2 people can't communicate, especially when what they are trying to communicate is misunderstood
This has completely changed my outlook on life. btw your fire in the booth made me feel proud to be indian lol. peace and love akala.
WOW - Real motivation, and a boost for my exams
Thanks :D
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