Paris Goodnight: My, how much there is to know

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 26, 2022

How many of the books in the Rowan Public Library have you read? If you’ve ever strolled through and looked at the stacks of books there, you know it’s an impossible task to read even a small portion of them in a lifetime.

When I looked through some of the materials offered in the eight floors of Davis Library in Chapel Hill, I remember thinking what a futile task it would be to try to read all the works those authors throughout the years had poured into their subject matter. You realize quickly there’s no possible way to get through all those books, so how do you go about choosing which ones are worth your time?

It certainly demoralized me when I thought about how much there is to know and that I’d never be able to get a grasp on even a minuscule portion of what was written in all those pages.

Sure, you have to read some things that teachers or professors required, but what about all the other options that are available?

These days, people don’t read books like they used to since so much information is available in the palm of your hand. And instead of choosing to fight through “War and Peace,” it’s a lot easier to skim the short snippets of information that you can absorb easily and then move on to something else.

But I still enjoy reading a good book every now and then, usually during a rare beach vacation or sometime when I’m not stuck at the computer staring at words for eight hours or more a day on the job.

And I’m not likely to choose something that’s going to make me a wiser man, but maybe something that’s just different enough from the other material I read all day long that it can capture my imagination, and hopefully let it run wild.

I don’t often find myself wading through something that’s novel-length for a second time, but I did pick up my old copy of “Big Red” not too long ago and got all the way through it a few decades after the first time I finished it. I remember thinking a tale of a boy and his dog was just the thing that could keep my interest as an adult just as easily as when I was a boy myself. But it certainly read a little differently on the second time around from when I was younger.

I’ve come to realize over the years that we don’t have to read all the books in the library to have a well rounded base of knowledge. And no matter how much you know, or think you know, you don’t know everything. And there’s always something new to discover, whether in written material or through life experiences.

That’s still what I try to tell myself, even though we used to say coming to work at a newspaper you’d learn something new everyday — but forget two things you already knew. Unfortunately I’m starting to think that’s more true than not as I try to remember names or titles of songs that used to come to me instantly.

Now some of those cerebral filing cabinets get stuck a little easier every year I get older.

I know the material is in there, I just can’t get that instant recall button to work when I need it to. But I’m not going to stop trying to pick up something new everyday, and if there’s a can of WD 40 that works on brain cells, just let me know.

Paris Goodnight is editor of the Salisbury Post.