A Velocity of Being

A Velocity of Being: Letter to a Young Reader by Maria PopovaA Velocity of Being: Letter to a Young Reader by Maria Popova

Maria Popova’s book, Velocity of Being, is a collection of letters accompanied with illustrations to the children of today and tomorrow about why we read. These letters—121 in total—are written by some of the most interesting and inspiring people in the world including: Jane Goodalll, Richard Branson, and Yo-Yo Ma to name a few.

I’ll write my own letter someday.

In the meantime, here’s Kevin Kelly’s letter.

Art by Andrea Tsurumi for Kevin Kelly’s letterArt by Andrea Tsurumi for Kevin Kelly’s letter

Dear Young Hero,

Imagine you can choose your own superpower from one of these three: flying, invisibility, or being able to read. You’d be the only person in the world with that superpower. Which one do you choose? Flying is not so useful without other superpowers. Invisibility is okay for being naughty or for a little fun but not good for much else. But if you were the only person who could read… you’d be the most powerful person on Earth. You would be able to tap into all the wisdom of the smartest people who ever lived. Their knowledge would go from their heads through squiggles on paper right into your head. You would learn things from them that no ordinary mortal would ever have enough time to learn. You would be as smart as everybody in total. Not that you have to remember it all. With reading you just look it up.

Reading is a superpower that also gives you a type of teleportation; it moves you a million miles instantly. That feeling of being immersed in a different place, or even a different time period, can be so strong you may not want to leave.

When you have this superpower you can see the world from the viewpoint of someone else. This helps protect you from the mistakes and untruths of others as well as your own ignorance.

More and more of our society is centered on pictures and images, which is a beautiful thing. But some of the most important parts of life are not visible in pictures: ideas, insights, logic, reason, mathematics, intelligence. These can’t be drawn, photographed, or pictured. They have to be conveyed in words, arranged in an orderly string, and can only be understood by those who have acquired the superpower of reading.

This superpower will always be with you; it will never leave you. But like all superpowers, it increases the more you use it. It works on paper and screens. As we invent new ways to read, its value and power will expand and deepen. At any time, reading beats any other superpower you can name.

Yours, Kevin Kelly
February 28, 2020 · Books

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