My 9th grade English teacher, Mr. Reed, once told us as he handed out the year’s suggested reading list that we shouldn’t feel we had to a finish a book just because we started it. There are too many books in the world to waste your time. Now, that’s a paraphrase; I’m sure he was a lot more pithy about it. (Mr. Reed was full of pithy observations – such as, frequently men develop a furniture problem as they age; their chests fall into their drawers.) In any case, I come back to this bit of advice often, especially when I’m 157 pages into a book and don’t care if I ever know the ending.
Of course, no author wants a reader to get halfway through her (read: my) book and give up. But the point is, noone is ever going to read all the books worth reading in their lifetime. So, as with anything, we each have to focus on what speaks to us most at a point in time. I say “as with anything”, because the same is true for the many important causes in the world.
When I was in high school, our basketball team went to the state tournament and spectacularly blew an enormous lead in the last quarter to lose the game. Sure, it was disappointing, but I saw guys not even on the team sitting in the audience with tears in their eyes, and I remember thinking that was silly. I never liked to be judgmental, but at that moment I thought there were a lot of things more worth crying about, and if only people could care that much about learning, the world would be much better off. I’m sure if I’d made that statement out loud, there would have been someone ready to denounce me as narrow-minded and say that education is impossible where there is war, so the only cause worth caring about is peace. And someone else would have been thinking that we’ll never have peace until there is freedom, and there will be neither if we turn a blind eye to people in other countries dying needlessly under a cruel dictatorship. And someone else would have said peace and freedom are utopian concepts that mean nothing if you’re starving, so we must feed the world. And someone else would have said it’s not feeding, it’s health and nutrition that matter, so we need to tackle obesity. And someone else would have thought it is our souls that are undernourished, so if we’re to support any cause, it should be the spiritualization of the nation. The arguments could go on and on.
The point is, just like finishing books, noone can be 100% passionate their whole life on every issue. Nothing is universal; for example, despite popular opinion, not everyone read the Da Vinci Code. (There are even some people who did read it and didn’t like it!) But every issue speaks to someone for a reason, and the very definition of freedom is being allowed to choose our personal priorities, no matter who thinks we should care about something else more. That is one cause I will defend to the bitter end.
P.S. There is always an anomaly, and by my calculation, everyone did read Harry Potter, and everyone did like it.