30 December 2009

So how inadequate am I really?

It was only last year, a fair way through my life that I realised the latest fact about another inadequacy of mine. Admittedly I had this thought while I was already upset at the course recent events had taken; to submerge my sorrows I wanted to drown in the words and stories of others, and so I made my way to the largest bookshop in the second largest city of my home country.  As I gazed at the hundreds of books in the Sci-Fi section (pleasingly, there was a separate section for Fantasy) there were so many authors who were new to me even though I had only been out of the country for 18 months, and I realised that I would never, never be able to read all the books in the world.
And I became intrigued, I do not know how many books there are in the world today, and I wondered how long ago it was, when it was still possible to read all the books in the world, assuming you could read every language, assuming you could access the manuscripts which may have been cherished and jealously guarded, or conversely, illegible through age or use.

So how inadequate should I feel not to be able to read everything? I reckon that if I lived and worked as now, I would get the estimated 3.5 billion books polished off in around 7.5 million years; and even if I devoted every moment to the task, it would still take me over a million years - one instance where my personal bug-bear of "trying harder" is not going to achieve the desired result either - this particular failure is only that as a human I am constrained to live my life on a human scale.

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