By Juan Cervantes
When we read a book, every page is a form of conception. Reading is a unique experience that occurs for each reader, conceiving among the pages the form of the form. That is to say that each reader, as the writer does while writing, returns to his or her past to construct each page – not because the page needs to be constructed, but because the moment the reader opens a page he needs to see himself in the act of interpreting, of imagining what he reads.
This necessity for interpretation opens up the past, first in an involuntary form while reading, and afterwards voluntary, when the reader pauses to analyze, or encounters difficulty in interpreting. Each reader is an interpreter of the reading, and therefore has a unique experience. One cannot assume that two readers would have the same experience from reading a certain text. Each individual is an experience of self, and as reader of a text, conceives of experience that reaches out from his or her past to come alive in the reading.
It is said that society forms the individual, and given that fact it is possible to think, if the idea is not too ambiguous, that two readers could have similar experiences of the same text, but not the same experience; a common form of interpreting but never exactly the same form.
Every individual is an interpretation of reading; hence one could say that a text or a book is as many texts or books as it has readers. I have the impression that, in our present day, reading a book is more complex than in the past – or in the worst case does not exist – the media of communication have changed.
It is true that a book can reach the eyes of any reader in any part of the world; and it is also true that there are too many books, and too many media of communication, that readers have become half-readers, or have disappeared. And if they are half-readers or have disappeared, who will read all this uncountable number of books? With the new forms of communication, the people – we can’t call them readers – are only recycling words, are merely reading gossip.
On the other hand, the media play an important role for an unlimited number of books – whether that is good or bad – which are spread around in a vast number of copies, and this quantity of texts become merely objects – a thing among things as Borges said. People also pass into being objects: a man among men; an individual at the service of ignorance and in consequence at the service of another man, perhaps a leader of a social institution, who exerts power in society. Henry David Thoreau has said that men in power use the people as machines, without voice or freedom of thought. Something similar is happening in the present but on a scale that is global and “amazonic”.
Inasmuch as reading is a form of conception, a society that lacks in reading has stopped conceiving, is dying, its individuals becoming subjected to dictatorial social institutions at the service of a few men who impose their conveniences and radicalisms. We have got to conceive, to reinterpret ourselves every day so that we are not conceptions of institutionalism; we have got to be the reader and not an interpretation decoded by impostors.
Juan Cervantes, author of “Voces de Libertad”, director of Espiral Publishing, is a member of the Silverton Poetry Association and founder of Poesía Latina Club. Translation by Vere McCarty. The Spanish text is available for the asking: email@example.com. We appreciate your attention to this brief philosophical piece and invite your responses.