We live in a diverse world, of diverse people with diverse cultures. The world contains a treasure trove of knowledge, philosophy, art, music, history and so many other subjects. Looking around our world, at the magnificent architecture, the technological achievements, the social and political organisations, I’m amazed, astonished and humbled by what humans have achieved. This frail, two-legged creature, whose life-span is short and limited, whose body is prone to all the illnesses and diseases that also live on this wonderful green and blue planet. One lifetime isn’t enough to taste its many and varied cuisines, delve into the granaries of its ideas, visit its natural beauties and talk to its myriad peoples. Which is why we need books from every corner and crevice of this world, from every culture and region and from every kind and type of person.
Novels and stories, not only tell us about the world, but also take us into the hearts and minds of others, connect us to their feelings, hopes and dreams, draw us into their tragedies and sorrows. We come to know them; we eat and sleep with them, and through the strange alchemy of words, we feel with them, as if our hearts have connected. We want their pain to end; we want their dreams and hopes to be fulfilled. Books bridge difference, distance and prejudice. Which is why we need diverse books.
Novels and stories are also a magician’s spell, engaging our intelligence, evoking our emotions, expanding our thoughts, and enlarging our vision of the world. They enrich us, enhance us, and I truly believe, make us better people. Which is why we need diverse books.
Books teach us not only about our own societies but other societies also, and they tackle all the problems, troubles and injustices that we humans suffer from. Most of which we’ve created ourselves. Which is why we need diverse books.
I can imagine some people laughing at this idea, and saying ‘how can mere books deal with bombs and bullets, violence and brutality, the everyday pain and suffering?’ Well, my answer is, the pen is mightier than the sword. The sword destroys, the pen creates.
I know it doesn’t seem like that when we look at the world, but history shows us that eventually, wars burn out but books remain.
Which is why ISIS is destroying museums, great monuments and libraries; they are knowledge, ideas and information in themselves. They pose the greatest threat to ISIS, because they say, your beliefs aren’t the only beliefs in the world; your knowledge isn’t the only knowledge in the world, and your rules aren’t the only rules in the world. Their very existence poses a challenge to ISIS, because they’re saying ‘let’s talk, let’s compare and examine, let’s see what is right and wrong, true and just. And recognise this, that knowledge is always organic, always evolving, always subject to new discoveries and new thoughts.’ Which is why we need diverse books.
There are few absolutes in the world, and in my view, not consciously harming anyone is one of them. I think the Wiccan Rede sums it up beautifully: ‘An it hurt none, do what thou will.’ Which means we have to look at ourselves, examine our own actions, have our principles and stick to them. Not just as individuals but as global individuals, not just as nations but as part of a global network of nations. Which is why we need diverse books.
The horror of Paris, Beirut and many other cities, comes to us through all the screens in our hands and homes, through our newspapers and magazines. We can’t pretend that there isn’t a history there; we can’t pretend that countries haven’t meddled where angels would fear to tread, we can’t pretend things happen in isolation. Which is why we need diverse books.
We need to know each other, like each other, and above all, respect each other. Which is why we need diverse books.
Diversity of every kind, from generational diversity, to people of different sexual preferences, to different cultures, races, religions, is the unseen glue that’ll bring us together and help us to live together. So that we can all aspire to happiness and enjoy the beauties of this world. Which is why we need diverse books.
This post was first published as part of a blog tour for A Wicked Old Woman on Living Otherwise: