The Miracle of Reading: Why a book is the most powerful thing in the universe

I must take a moment to articulate something a lot of people take for granted—and that is the unique aspects of intelligence possessed by the human race and the ability we have to transfer knowledge to each other. I’m talking about reading specifically. The ability to put down marks on a page, or a rock, and to have some other person interpret the meaning of those marks into intelligent recollection is one of the greatest miracles of the universe. It bothers me to see criticisms of the human race as if nature were in some superior position, as if the construction of a planet or the vastness of space were more important than the ability to read a book. Because it’s not, there is nothing more important than the human ability to read. The ability to convey knowledge of many lifespans and to create cognitive associations based on marks on a page is one of the most important things to emerge from LIFE. The random biological nature of cells to do what they are programmed to do does not equate to the ability to think and to build on intelligence. The mysteries of gravity and the power of light do not hold a candle to the ability to reason through variables and to invent something from nothing.

I had these thoughts recently while on a call with a patent review officer in Washington D.C. while a very expensive lawyer was serving as a bridge between us all. The scope of the meeting was to put the final touches on a patent I’m associated with—something created from nothing which would be launched into the world forever to change a manufacturing technique. We were doing this work from a large conference room table with mountains of written material spread out so that barely any aspects of the wooden table underneath showed through. The amount of reading and writing it took for all of us to arrive at that moment with over 4 years of discussions and all the years of experience we all had amassed over many different careers coming to that point was to me a miracle of human existence, and was a subject of great excitement. The reviewer was a very smart man who had to have read mountains of previous material in order to speak on the conference call so fluidly and it was in that moment that I considered how far the human race had come in just a few thousand years of marking on rocks during the Neolithic period, or even the age of Iron. As humans we realized early on that the way to beat our natural lifespans was to read and write—so that we could cheat death and live on with what we intelligently acquired over a lifetime. Cows, chickens, birds or any other creature anywhere don’t do this. They simply live—do as they have been programmed to do through cellular construction, then they die and are returned to the earth. Only humans leave behind the mark of their lifetimes in the knowledge they acquire and after only a few thousand years of this here we were inventing something and making it all legal—again through the power of the written language.

The anger I have at stupidity is in this regard. I really hate dumb people—because it is a choice. To see humans waste their minds on stupidity, on collective cohesions, to deliberately intoxicate themselves or to develop addictions such as pornographic endeavor, over eating, or smoking is to deprive the miracle that is life from its full fruition and I think it is much more catastrophic than any environmental concern. The worst thing anybody could do in life is to be stupid, and to do it by choice. To not learn to read, to write, or to think. Just the words on this blog site are a miracle in themselves because I can take what’s on my mind, put those thoughts down here for all to read—just marks and symbols that we all agree mean something, and we can exchange knowledge. I can speak to my great, great, great, great, GREAT grandchildren as easily as I’m speaking to you now—and that is quite important—and powerful. That is far more important, and difficult than the reasons for the storm on Jupiter known as the Great Eye. Who cares why the eye happens and never goes away if it doesn’t lead to any knowledge. It is just something mechanical that happens. It doesn’t think or become anything. It just is. And humans are not like that.

The hippies, the climate freaks and the socialist losers out there will say to us that we should smoke dope and yield to the world around us, and to become harmonized with existence. I say that is all bull shit. What they are really saying is that they are too lazy to think, too lazy to read, and too lazy to contemplate invention on improving what is into something that could be. Learning to just live and die isn’t really living. Its surrendering. A thinking human being is the most powerful aspect of existence that there is—and we are meant to change the world around us by the necessity of invention. And we do that through the ability to read. The ability of one mind to put down on paper through symbols the contents of that thought and for some other mind to read those symbols and recollect the thoughts of the first person is amazing. It is the closest thing to actual telepathic utilization that we know in known science. And there is an immortal quality to it that advances all of civilization. A great Orca whale doesn’t sit down and write a book. They simply live, they are born, they seek out food., they mate, they become mentors to the youth, then they die. Virtually all life forms perform at existence this way and there is nothing special about it. There is nothing great about Mother Nature and the world around us—only what we can look at as human beings and improve upon—because we were meant to do so. To fully live is to improve the world around us, not to accept it as it was.

Books, written papers, blogs, articles of formality—these are miracles of human thought that will extend our reach of knowledge deep into the future and will result in even more invention through natural evolution. I say to every drunk, every pot smoker, to every person who deliberately attempts to make themselves stupid so to gain appeal among their peers who do not wish to be challenged by intelligence, that they are a disgrace to everything it means to be alive. To have the gift of cognition, to think above the status of animal behavior and then to turn away from it is simply unforgivable. The ability to think and communicate is the greatest achievement in the universe, even as vast as it is. We marvel at how dolphins can communicate under water, and how humpback whales sing long spooky songs that inspire topless heathens known as beach bums to proclaim them as evidence of a “greater intelligence.” But when was the last time a dolphin wrote a series like the Game of Thrones books by George R.R. Martin? The answer is obvious, and deserves considerable respect. It’s time we stop pandering to the superstitions of the past and begin to highlight what is best about life in general—and it begins with the ability to communicate. That small step from carving out an image on a rock to pass along some thought to other people started a chain reaction which has evolved into those piles of paper I described at our patent meeting—and from there to the essence of modern civilization—which is a wonderful thing. Only those seeking stupidity could argue otherwise—because what they fear is to become something greater than the rest of the universe—and to ponder what might come next.
There are a lot of things I love in life, but there is nothing I love more than a new book. They always excite me, more than anything else does and that is because of what potential each one holds—from the simplest kid’s book to the most sophisticated novel—they have within them a cognitive ability that is very specific to the human condition which strives to be more than our animal natures—and that is the most important thing in all of existence. I place the power and ability to read above the most fantastic forces known anywhere, even a black hole at the center of each galaxy. Those are just mechanical events operating under the rules of physics. The ability to think and ponder changing those rules into something better is what matters most. And that is the key.

Rich Hoffman

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