Reading and Refinement – an Open Speech
Ever since members of early civilizations used simple hieroglyphics to communicate their thoughts, hopes, and aspirations, there has been a close connection between reading and refinement. For this purpose, the terms ‘refinement’ must be extended to include far more than ‘good manners’, otherwise, the only reading necessary to produce he ‘refined’ person would be a book on etiquette! Refinement, however, really implies culture and civilization in the widest sense, a combination of those qualities which differentiate man from the animal world, and it is the bearing of reading on the development of these qualities which we must examine.
A high standard of personal morality and unselfishness is cultured man’s first characteristic. This, he largely owes to the books of his religion, whether it be the Christian Bible, the Muslim Koran, the Hindu Upanishads, the Philosophy of Buddha or Confucius. Such books teach him the meaning of family life and virtues of honesty, peaceful living, and integrity. But, the best of secular literature helps him to achieve the same object.
For most people, however, the ‘refined’ person is the ‘educated’ person, the person whose intellect has been developed through reading intelligent books. The clear, logical thinker owes much to his grounding in the school-room, and even more to the love of reading which this grounding has fostered. Reading becomes a stimulating function of adult life and ceases to be a child’s tool for passing an examination or getting a job.
Cultured living requires that people should be ‘well-informed,’ and wide reading has the added advantage of imparting useful general knowledge. Such knowledge is obtained from a variety of sources ranging from the newspaper and magazine to the many available volumes of specialized non-fiction books. An added benefit of good reading is the development of a love of language for its own sake.
Today, we live in a cosmopolitan community, which has become sophisticated and matured by the admixture of foreigners, with their own languages, ways of life and special gifts. Furthermore, a few of us nowadays, spend all our lives in our own small village or town. And so, it becomes increasingly important to know about other countries, other people. To know about other countries, other people. To know something about them from books, perhaps to learn their languages, at once smoothes the path to friendship, and it is a characteristic of a refined person to wish to make friends with other nationals, not to regard them suspiciously as ‘foreign devils.’