The Igbos will say that “onye njem ka onye isi awo mma”, meaning that a traveller is wiser than an old man. This is used to show that the experiences a person gathers from travelling exposes him and gives him more wisdom. It also shows that experience is the best teacher. The reason here is that the more a person moves from place to place, the better his chances of meeting with people of different cultures, ideologies and values. The person will also have knowledge of what is obtainable in another place. But above all, he will learn from his mistakes and that of others.
When the ancestors of the Igbo tribe came up with that proverb, there was a limit to what a person could learn. In those days, people lived in smaller communities and only related with members of their communities. Occasionally, they engaged in social relations with their neighbours, who were also small clusters of people with ideologies similar to theirs. In essence, most cultures, religious practices and values were the same among each and every one of these communities.
But then, time came when people began to risk moving farther away from their hamlets. They began to venture beyond the “forbidden” boundaries and areas, seeking for knowledge or just to satisfy their curiosity. These brave adventurers returned to their villages wiser and richer, or, occasionally, damaged. But in the end, they were not stagnant.
Today, people find it easier to travel. It is easier to leave your abode and move into the next one. It is very easy for people to journey through the Atlantic Ocean in search of knowledge and wealth on the other side of the world. As days go by, boundaries between towns become thinner and thinner. Cultures have been merged. Religions no longer belong to any particular people. Values have been dispersed. And above all, experiences have been shared.
Bit by bit, the universe is becoming one big village. The continental drift that happened eons ago is being glued together. Continents are gradually coming together because you can find people from different continents in a place. All these owe their gratitude to the first adventurers that stepped out of their comfort zones to explore their neighbourhood.
But all these did not only happen because people started moving out of their abodes in search of knowledge and wealth. We should also thank the grand masters that discovered writing, which they used to store information. Because of writing, people store knowledge from their experience or that of someone else. Through writing, people reveal their mistakes and that of others. Through writing, people immortalise their strategies. Writing actually became the mind map of the sojourners. It became the companion of the philosophers. The intellectuals use it to reveal their discoveries. Historians use it to store events. And it is used by all to communicate to people far and near.
To decipher the knowledge hidden in written works, a person needs to read; there is no other way of doing that. Thanks to the discovery of the printing press, we can read materials written by people from different parts of the world and from different ages. We gather the truths hidden in those printed symbols and allow them to direct or to redirect our decisions and actions. Through reading, we meet with these writers, irrespective of who they are, where they are writing from and when they wrote. The good thing here is that we do not have to cross seven seas and seven forests before picking up these knowledge.
Now, the importance of reading has always been emphasised. We always hear that “readers are leaders” but we may not really know why it is so. Some people might think those words were actually put together because they almost rhymed. But a deeper look into the two keywords will tell you that for you to be able to have control over yourself and be able to influence others, you must have knowledge. Now, I ask, where do you think that knowledge comes from?
I believe you will agree with me that nobody is born with knowledge of what is obtainable in this world, unless the person is “ogbanje”, an “abiku”, who was said to have come into this world several times. Everybody in this world got information from people around him, including the mass media. Imagine if this person does not read; imagine if he only has his immediate environment to learn from; imagine that he became brainwashed because of his limited access to information. This is the bane of a person who does not read – information underload.
If you look at what is happening in the world today, you will understand why only a few people control the whole world. This time, I am not talking about Nigeria alone. Have you realised that people are fed with selected “information”, which keeps them busy while their leaders keep them in check? Have you noticed that the easiest way to rule people is by playing on their emotions and turning them against one another? Has it come to your notice that a great number of people do not think critically or analyse issues decisively before they act? There is only one reason for this – people only assimilate what was fed them by their “slavers”.
Now, reading frees people from shackles of mental slavery. But it can also lure people into bondage that is worse than mental slavery. This then comes to play when deciding what you read and your reason for reading in the first place. If you read to justify your action – you are wrong. If you read only materials that support one cause – you will get shackled. If you read only what you were advised to read by your “leader” – you will be misled and destroyed. If you read to find fault or to castigate – you will miss the message. So, why do you read?
Read to get knowledge. Read to understand. Read to learn. Read to free your mind. Read objectively. Read without bias. Don’t let people shackle your mind and soul; that is the worst kind of slavery. Own your life; find the tricks of the leaders; find the road to success; read for adventure; and read to travel. Today, time and geographical travel can be done on the pages of books; don’t miss that opportunity.