Having Never Read A Book – Ever

A bit ironic that i should ‘read’ these ‘written’ ‘words’, in a ‘book’.

“Yes, their days were all the same, with the seemingly endless hours between sunrise and dusk; and they had never read a book in their young lives, and didn’t understand when the boy told them about the sights of the cities. They were content with just food and water…”
~The Alchemist. Paulo Coelho

These words sent me into a Malian daze as vivid images of village children passed before my eyes. Visions of real children, all of whom look half their real age in physical development. As for literacy, the exposure and development of an infant.

Are their books in this village? Most of the villages have few books of any kind.  They are two languages removed from the educational language of French, and their mother tongue never written in history to this day. Mud huts, mud floors, no shelves, harmattan dust, drips, leaks, and rainy season humidity all lead to the total disintegration of any book in no time. Not to mention the fact that even if they could read some other written language, who could afford books anyway?

Oh, the extraordinary places books and stories take us to.
Oh, the ideas, innovations, and possible alternative realities books introduce us to.
Oh, the things we never envision or fathom on our own, without some seed first being depositing into the soils of our mind, and the grinding realities of our daily life.

How literacy affects the way we live, act, and work; both for them and us, is nothing less than astounding.
Imagine trying to introduce new ideas to people without the ability to leave a few written lines as reminders, because few can read the hieroglyphs. Unable to read the most rudimentary guide.

This is where we live and work in Sub-Sahara West Africa. We have to be right there in front of them every time,  speaking audibly, though images are great help jog memory about what was said.

Are they content in their poverty, lack of community development, and living in the most primitive of subsistance farming lifestyles, a hundred kilometers from any power source?  When this is all you know…… are you happy with food and water, as the boy in The Alchemist said?

We must be wary of introducing a spirit of discontent. We certainty should avoid crushing their spirits by projecting on them a poverty, a sense of hoplessness, they often do not really sense. There are better ways to serve helpfully.

A book, a human interaction can introduce us to new ideas, new existential possibilities, but how do we avoid crushing peoples spirits in the painfully slow process of entering into a new reality?

What do you think?

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