Reading is Doing

La Voz de Galicia – April 24, 2020 →

Cristina PatoAt times, no matter how many people are around, one feels as alone as ever. At other times, no matter how lonely one looks, one feels as if one needs nothing more than a book and oneself. I am accustomed to navigating these two impressions without a problem, and I always thought that getting used to solitude was as important a part of my profession as being constantly surrounded by strangers.

But it’s different these days. I have never been in the same place for so long. I have never not traveled, not been alone for most of the day. And even though I am mistress of my time, there is something peculiar feeling in these days: I feel equally guilty for each thing I do as well as for each thing I don’t do.

I found a book with a very large font so that my mother could read it while I taught my three-hour online class. When I finished, I wanted to unwind. And then I grabbed my novel and sat by her side to spend the afternoon reading together, but I wasn’t able to do it. I felt guilty for wanting to do the same thing I always do when I am alone (reading), for not taking advantage of these special moments with her to do something different…It has been forty days already, and we have done a bit of everything and more, but for some reason, there are days when I feel bad for not doing anything useful–with her, with the world, with myself. And then that spiral of emotions leading me nowhere begins: does what I do have any worth?

And there, in my very own magic mountain, I remembered that literature saved my life, that books helped me become what I am…And that celebrating those that write them is as necessary as reading them, because now more than ever, they save us from the apathy caused by the uncertainty of the times.

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