What have you learned today?

I mean it, really, what have you learned today that you did not know yesterday?

We live in a wondrous era of technological advance. As little as two decades ago one would have to visit a library or school to access information and learn but now one can find much at the touch of a button on a smartphone. Personally I think the best benefit to a smartphone is being able to order books at the touch of a button but I know I may be an outlier in that thinking.

What have you read today?

I don’t mean what have you read on social media either. I mean what book or books, articles or peer reviewed materials have you read today? If you’re laughing at the idea of reading a book you aren’t alone. In fact the average reading level in North America is at a grade three. That’s right, the average person you know reads at the level of an eight year old child. Some of the most popular news media outlets write to an audience at a grade three level. Some of the most popular fiction written worldwide is at a grade three level. Knowing that might provide clarity on how trends like “flat earth theory” can take hold.

The good news is that if you want to do better for yourself, if you want to hold yourself to a higher standard than the majority of your community you need only read a book, once a day, just one chapter or even a few pages. Aim for something that inspires you!

There is a whole world of fascinating information out there for you to capitalise on. I remember reading Aldous Huxley’s “brave new world” when I was a teen. It was so far above my vocabulary that I read it with a dictionary in my other hand and a thesaurus in my lap! I am Autistic but I didn’t know it at the time. I was simply determined to read that book because it was so challenging. Even though I didn’t understand every third word of the damned thing I was determined to learn! It probably seems silly to you but to me it was very important.

You see I had an evangelical Christian minister for a mother. A deeply troubled and abusive one. Twice that very week while I tried to read “a brave new world” my mother had tried to burn my books while she was at home. She used a barrel in the garage. I had come home to catch her about to light a match as she tried to destroy my books because she had declared them to be “demonic” and unclean. She tried to burn my Tolkien novels because they held stories of demons, she tried to destroy my copy of the jungle book because Mowgli was depicted as almost naked, she tried to destroy my Anne Rice novels because she deems them “lust filled filth.”

So I fought to keep my books. I raced home everyday near tears (tears I always held back or hid in shame) terrified that I might find my only trusted friends in flames. My grandfather was kind to me, he always said,

“My son, if you have a book, you have a friend.”

I loved my grandfather and grandmother but my mother would rarely allow me to visit them.

They were not Christian, they were not alright with her Christ.

My books were gifts from my grandfather, burning them, to my young mind, would be like burning my relationship with my kind and loving grandfather. I couldn’t live with such a thing.

So I raced home to save my books and I read them in secret, even if I didn’t understand the words or the social concepts contained in them. I just had to unlock the mystery of each page and I had to understand the language in order to do so, Gramps would have wanted me to learn.

It took me a month but I learned what every word meant in “a brave new world.” It was just a fiction, science fiction set in a distant future, but it taught me a lot. I learned that faith can be ugly, in the book and in my family life. I learned that people can be motivated by more than hope, they can be motivated by hate and fear and they can be ashamed. I learned that someone else, the author, didn’t understand monogamous ideals either. “A brave new world” was the first time I realized that there might be others like me, poly amorous was a word I found later. I first found the idea in that book.

So read a book. If not because you think it’s fun than because it will make you a better version of yourself. Or maybe it will teach you something you didn’t expect to learn like “a brave new world” did for me. Hell, read a book because somewhere out there right now there is a kid that is fighting just to be able to own a book, it’s easy to forget such realities exist and take things like books for granted.

I don’t, but I had to fight, and was beaten more than once, just so I could struggle to find the meaning of some words.

Challenge is opportunity,

Autsistic jiu jitsu.