It took me 70 years of Sundays – that’s 3,640 Sundays — to appreciate one of the greatest gifts I ever received. I finally remembered that it was Mr. Steinberg, my High School English teacher, whose only text book that senior year, was the Sunday New York Times — Mr. Steinberg, who gave me 3,640 (give or take) precious Sundays.
I remember now, that although our class took The Times apart and thoroughly examined it section by section – mostly, we actually studied the Book Review in the greatest depth. We learned to read reviews and to evaluate both the reviewer and the book reviewed. We talked about each “interview,” the quality of books on the best-seller list, those that were highly recommend by the editorial staff of the newspaper and even the advertisements for books yet to be published or previously reviewed . We were encouraged to choose books of our favorite genre and to write our own reviews.
Now, so belatedly, as I savor my Sunday Morning Book Review read time, and find myself traveling all over the planet geographically, intellectually, and spiritually, I am aware of how each issue is an education in itself – how each issue opens my mind to something new. And how even the genres to which I am least attracted, offer another way to see the world and to see myself in it. And by golly, each week I am swept away by how easy it is to get a genuine “high” without even a cup of coffee at my side. Not that I am knocking coffee.
More and more we are getting translations of especially fiction, ranking high on the list of new releases. Writers from Africa, Asia and South and Central America sharing their culture and traditions, and stories opening doors for us to learn about people unlike us.
And of course science, business, sports, government and all the arts are subjects to which many “someones” have devoted a major part of their lives, researching, opining and writing their hearts out. And it’s all so easily accessible in a morning read. Thank you again, Mr. Steinberg for your indefatigable patience in, at first, forcing me to “study” the newspaper.
And while we’re on the subject of intangible “gifts” let us not forget our libraries, one of the greatest community assets ever conceived by man. If you are a really disciplined person, you can save a bunch of $$$ on higher education tuition – by organizing your own curriculum in a library.
But, since we are a consumer society, I’m guessing many of you already have your gift lists made and perhaps even at least half attended to. I’m hoping you have included books and some items that will challenge the minds of the young people — yes, even the old people — on your list. We can’t allow Google to do everything for us. We will soon be entrapped by A.I. (artificial Intelligence) in all aspects of our lives, and will be tempted to give into the laziness of thought which will follow. This is too grim a note to leave you with so soon before an impending joyous holiday, so in all optimism I know that there are many Mr. (and Ms. ) Steinbergs left in this world who are still willing to fight for one of our most precious rights – the right to think for ourselves.
Happy Holidays to all.