Once upon a time, as a growing chap in the 90s, I was brought in to the consciousness that reading was every bit a culture as it was a learning process. As a learning process, such books as “Eze Goes to School”, “The Bottled Leopard”, “Without a Silver Spoon”populated school domains and, with overeager schoolmasters leading the charge, set about a reading frenzy across each and every school blocks in the country.
There was no escaping reading then, such books were the absorbing pages you fall back on once commonplace school tasks slip away. We read and learnt to enjoy the art of reading – and thinking, and believing and creating through them.
Extending to the 2000s, the wave was all the more rampant countrywide with Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka most prominent amongst literary figures whose books engineered a social rave; a propelling vibe that would thrust all readers into an age of appreciation for the solemn beauty of the Arts – literal, visual and come what may, so long Art was self-defining, self-defying before our eyes. At the time, it was either you were a reader of those books, an acolyte to Fela’s musical semantics or a patriotic Nigerian citizen assiduously waiting on a surely soon-to-prosper nation. No bigger influences interfered with that triple cycle from which point we knew not what future we were to emerge upon.
Emerge though will the future. First, it was the kids, bombarded with such things – computer games. Books, be gone! Not in the face of such marvels – the Gameboys, the Nintendo, the Mario Game, the SEGA, the PlayStation – would any avid reader then remember the last chapter he stopped his Eze Goes to School! School came first (because it must), the computer games a close second, then books, only just, at a distant third. The elderly folks, well-rounded as they are wont to show, would not be spared either. They too were soon catching the flu. Blockbuster movies, piquant music, eye-catching motions, ear-tingling vibrations will serenade their senses, our senses to no end.
The future though was only emerging; that was the calm before the storm. In an era, succinctly dubbed The Computer Age, where all and sundry is engulfed in a maelstrom labelled technological explosion, books, above all, classical lovelies of “ages” past are now consigned to the furthest thought of any living minds, condemned to the farthest corner of any treasured keepsake.
No clearer pattern typifies the lunacy of the age as reflected by our obscene fixation with our smart phones, and of course, the social media. Brilliant as these devices are, we are losing touch with “reality” – family timeouts, one-to-one engagement; human-humane relations basically. Still worse, we seem not to notice or care too much about this terrifying trend. Absurd cases of needless deaths are recorded every day on account of people having too much to do with their phones. Are humans suddenly turned automatons?
Right now, I’m to share this article on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp, LinkedIn and Pinterest, in my private bid to win over more followers, and with that, hopefully spread a wildfire that’d establish the TL brand. Books? What books?
Do people still read? Naturally. There are tons of blessed platforms from which we all can access any number of books online. In fact, you can immediately possess a bestseller book right in your palms, and for free too, very much against what obtained in the distant past.
However, in spite of this unbelievable availability of resources, unstinting opportunities to enrich our minds a great deal, only a handful of persons in our present world can lay claim to being the old-fashioned reader; old-fashioned reader implying those who you’ll always catch in the act of reading.
Most people who read nowadays are pretenders. We may indeed have a bulging stack of books in our smart devices or wooden libraries, the truth is, we hardly touch a good portion of those books in our possession. Even when we do, what we read, we read in snatches.
The fault is not ours either. We are simply beset with too much cares, too many attractions to give a thought to some books lying idle somewhere. But then again, there’s the tug! We just can’t seem to let go, to tear ourselves completely away from those beauties. We always want to have the books right within our grasps anyway, assured in the knowledge that there’s a good book to be read at any given odd hour. Some of us would even go a step further reading a page or a chapter a day just to keep the spirit going.
The fight back may be valiant, but it’s a losing battle. The Age we are now is not a level playing field for childhood romantics. We are at the beginning of a new era where robots are taking up more human responsibilities and cars would soon begin to fly; in the space of another thirty years, classic books may well just become relics from the past stored up in museums, strictly for exhibition purposes.
I’m Aramide Salako. I dream, I imagine, I think, I ponder, I read, I write, I create.
Team Lead — www.todayslift.org.