By Hakim Abdul-Ali
Gaining knowledge is a very time consuming activity, but it yields immense personal and spiritual rewards for those who are dedicated to this preoccupation. Well, today I’m going to talk a little bit about acquiring knowledge via book collecting and what it may mean for the independent, serious student seeker of knowledge.
Sincere book collecting, as a discipline support in acquiring knowledge, is a staunch art form, and it has taken me all over this nation and the world in search of understanding and truth while chasing anything that had any mention of my ethnicity and religion, pro or con, about those subjects. Acquiring knowledge about one’s self, others and other sundry points of interests has always inspired me to independently study and seek clarity on/about these issues, no matter where it took me.
I owe this insatiable habit on my part to collect from my late schoolteacher mother and also from my father, who was an accomplished self-taught artist. Our home was decked out with books, books, books and more books everywhere you could turn because acquiring factual knowledge was a must in my home.
My parents were my personal on sight teachers, who collectively told me “a house without a personal library is a residence without a solid learning foundation.” I’ve never forgotten that, and I guess I had no choice but to accept what they advocated and taught me because our home library was my definitive road collegiate map to travel the world and learn about different folk, cultures, religions and the like from everywhere you could possibly think of.
My mother was a very spiritual Christian lady, and being what her profession was, she calmly instilled in me to never be ashamed to collect books as a person of color and to love being secure (by myself) in studying and exploring any and everything that fascinated my inquisitive thoughts. I’m that way until this very instance, and it’s because my mother certainly planted those seeds in my head for me to do what I still love to do to this very day.
Needless to say, I humbly guess you could assume that I have a “somewhat” very extensive, valuable book collection of sorts, and you probably are right on the money, if you drew that assumption. But the stark reality is that my love of book collecting is not, and has never been, spawned by a materialistic desire to obtain extremely rare and valuable literary items for money’s sake over the decades of doing what I do.
No, to the complete opposite, you should understand that acquiring knowledge of self and others for me has been an arduous love and hate episodic journey of disciplined self-discovery in learning about many varied subjects, issues, things and platforms. In order to do this, I’ve had to understand what discipline, research and being steadfast in the pursuit of academic comprehensions was and is all about in while experiencing many intensely personal upheavals and persistently challenging encounters.
My father was a very extremely quiet, spiritual, talented and inquisitive soul in his own right, and he would remind me, from time-to-time that through collecting and maintaining books, that it would be like meeting and finding new friends, but you have to take care of them first. He also said that I if met someone else who collected books for the sole purposes of acquiring knowledge, I’d surprisingly find out something interesting about who they are.
Man, oh, man, was he ever so correct because in this journey throughout my decades upon decades of being a self-obsessed bibliophile, attempting to acquire ubiquitous knowledge about all things, I’ve learned a lot about myself, and I’ve learned even more about a lot about other “hue-mans” too. My dad would say, “ Son, find out in your journeys as a collector what books the other collecting folk read and what they themselves collect, then you’ll most assuredly know what manner of souls they are.”
He really believed that, and in so many ways, again, my father hit the nail on the head with that assessment because I’ve met some of the grandest collectors, who were and are some of the nicest folk you’d ever want to meet. Only “true,” avid book lovers realize the beauty and wisdom that lies between the pages of authentically ancient classics and unbiased modern volumes because books of legitimacies embrace veracity from the scholarly thoughts of the world’s dedicated thinkers, writers and authors from both the past and of the present.
“Acquiring real knowledge of one’s self is light for an ignorant soul’s liberation,” is what my father would say to me at times when I studied the books about the Motherland which were prominent in our home library. To add to this point, my dear mother literally made me read African cultural books until it became an enjoyable passion that I loved because it alone challenged and helped me to think, grow and to have respect for myself and others.
So, by collecting books that interested and stimulated me, especially, those related to my heritage and religion, has aided me in establishing reasoning and understanding as necessary tools for my self-advancement as an intelligent, clear thinking “hue-man” being living in these politically and contradictory environments that we live in today.
By being a researcher, collector and an archivist of numerous, assorted literary volumes in my life as a devoted bibliophile, I’ve come to realize that most uninterested and unaware folk don’t realize that many secretive global truths, religious deceptions and unbelievable “his-storical” falsehoods are concealed between the pages of books and manuscripts. Mom and dad said “seek, read and you shall find if you want to know (the truth) about anything.”
Well, I did, and I read everything you could name that was available in my own family library until I got to college during the early ’60s, where and when I took book collecting and acquiring self-knowledge through self-examination more seriously. I, respectfully, have to say that the characteristics of committed researchers and book lovers, etc. is that they demonstrate a zeal to accumulate relevant and worthwhile literary material because their personal libraries reflect their interests in the superlative things that they read about and collect, just like my father said would be the case.
The real value, or wealth, in one’s heritage is in knowing that the wealth of anyone’s true cultural history may be housed in the archives of one’s own learning initiatives and in the establishments of one’s personal home libraries. An ancient Swahili proverb simply says, “Wealth, if you use it, will come to an end; learning, if you use it, increases.”
Think intently about that as I leave you with another explosive, but ever-so-thought provoking, Ashanti proverb that says it all. The proverb states, “By the time the fool learns the game, the players have dispersed.” Remember no books and no libraries equate to no knowledge. Hmm! Need I say anymore. Consciously speaking, I don’t believe so. Our cultural matters. Start reading more and building your own library. For today and always, that’s, “As I See It.”