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On Books and Learning

by Dr Alex Tang

 

 

I love books. I love to hold a new book in my hands. I love the smell of new books and feel the texture of fine binding of leather books. Most of all, I love the sense of anticipation about what the author or authors have written. Is it a new adventure that thrills and set my heart a racing or some new facts to expand my mental horizon? Will it contain some new insight to deepen my spirit or some new thoughts that excite my sense of wonder? Yes, I confess. I am an addict. I am suffering from biblioholism (an addiction to books). When I walk into a bookstore, I look for a basket to put my new books in. I wish they provide supermarket trolleys. I buy my books at the local mamak store, small bookshops, big chain bookstores and online. I am such a good customer that Amazon.com sends me personalized Christmas greetings and presents every year! People who visit my house and see my books always ask, “Have you read all these!” “No”, I will reply, “they are for decoration.” But I do read them.

Recently I was cataloging my books. I felt a deep sense of nostalgia when I key in the name of each book into the database. Holding each book is like meeting an old friend. I remember when I read them, what reactions they evoke and also memories of my life when the book was read. I read this book when I was very homesick in Edinburgh, this book when my daughter left for Australia and this trilogy when I was in Rome.

As I thought more about this, I begin to realize that even though I love books, I love books not for its own sake. I am not a book collector who buys books to keep in its original mint condition. I buy books because I love to read. I read because I love to learn. So I discovered that a love of learning is behind my love of books. Books are to be read.

I read because I have a hunger to know. I have a type of personality that is very curious about the world and wants to know about everything. As a kid I would stay indoor to read the encyclopedia while other kids play football outside. Reading opens to me a world that I would not have known otherwise. Nowadays, Discovery Channel and the Internet help too. Even now, when I am gray-haired, I still have this hunger to know. Except now, I realized that what I am exploring and appreciating is God’s wondrous creation.

I read because I want to understand. I like to connect what new discoveries that I have found with what I already know. It is like finding pieces of a puzzle and fitting them until it all comes together. I find a deep satisfaction when I begin to understand something. I love these ‘aha’ or ‘eureka’ moments. These illuminating moments show the glorious ecology of God’s creation.

I read because I want to learn. Learning is not just knowing and understanding but also involve a change in our lives. Without assimilating what we have learnt, we are like those whom Paul described as “always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.” (2 Tim.3:7). People ask me why I am studying for a PhD (Permanent head Damage) at my age. I should be playing golf. I am doing it because I want to learn to think critically. Critical and applied learning produces wisdom.

I know where this love of books and learning comes from - my father. Even though he had just a rudimentary education, he taught himself by reading books and by observing and learning from others. I believe his hunger for knowledge and understanding has being passed onto me. We were not well off financially but there were always some books around the house and he studied them often. My father has modeled to me what the Psalmist wrote, “instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still, teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Ps.9:9-10).

 I hope I have done the same for my daughters.

 

                                                                                                                                                                            Soli Deo Gloria

| posted 20 April 2006 |

 

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