The Book

There is a book from which almost everyone has read. Like every book, there are those who have started it, but have yet to finish (and who may never finish). There are those who have skimmed casually through the whole thing, but failed to absorb the more important details, or who failed to remember them. There are those who have read bits and pieces, when it suited them, and ignored other parts entirely.

There are readers of the book who have read the entire book and analyzed it intently, but who have become so convinced of their specific interpretations of certain passages that they can no longer be said to understand what they’ve read at all. Their convictions have tainted their comprehension. Even rereading the book may do them little good, for they won’t easily forget what they have learned.

There are readers of the books who have read the entire book who understand certain portions well — perhaps too well — but who are mystified by other parts. Those mysterious sections are not the same for any two random readers. What might seem complex to one person can be simple and obvious to another.

There are readers of the book who understand pages and chapters of it, on one level, but who are unable to apply their understanding to their practice; who, through the eyes of an outside observer, may seem not to have read the book at all. Some of these people take the book too literally. They expect everyone to have read it, and to follow its rules. They don’t know that other readers are different from them in both their comprehension and how much they have read.

There are readers who have not read the book, but who we can call readers because they have the capacity to read the book — they are just prevented from doing so. Sometimes this prevention comes from their surroundings, or their upbringing, or other aspects of their situation. Sometimes it comes from within themselves, in the form of hate or desire or apathy. They may convinced to read the book, but like those who have a false understanding of it, they may never be able to change themselves.

There are non-readers, who, for reasons often outside of their control, are unable to read the book. They may learn bits and pieces of the knowledge it passes on, through hard-fought experience. They are more likely to learn from those around them kind enough to quote passages from the book, though their inability to read those passages themselves hampers them. More than any other, they are likely to misinterpret, or to take what they can garner from others about the book as literal, unshakable truth.

Everything in the book is a truth, but there are clauses and catches and complications. Nothing can be taken at face value, because everything relies on something else within the book to be understood. That’s why focusing on a specific passage will never work. That’s why trying to force an interpretation on it will never work. That’s why failing to absorb it in its entirety, as so few ever do, will never work.

This is why the full readers, those who have read the book from cover to cover and who understand every word of it, are so rare — if they exist at all. If they do, well, surely they are confused by those who don’t understand it. Surely there are those among them who understand the book so easily and completely that they are confounded by those who misinterpret or refuse it. Though perhaps not — perhaps they simply look upon the rest of us in disdain.

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