Books are doorways

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Books are magical objects. When a person opens the cover of a book, they are opening a door into another time or place. People that are trapped in the clutches of the so called ‘justice system’ are the loneliest people in the world. Degraded and dehumanized, everyday is Hell. Lots of good people surrounded by predators. There are many kind gentle souls locked up in prison. There are even more cruel, angry animals. Unfortunately, they are mixed together even sharing cells. Sometimes the only escape from unpleasant, filthy, heartbreaking situations is to lose yourself in a book. A person’s reality is where their mind is focused. Without books, a prisoner would be forced to see the box they are confined to. Four brick walls, lots of ugly metal fixtures, an open toilet, make up their world. Obnoxious smells, odors, noises, screams, thumping rap ‘music’, and hate pollute the air, thick like smog. These things disappear, at least for awhile, when a person’s reality is the book they are reading.

Books are doorways into another dimension and imagination is the key that unlocks them. Sometimes, the ability to leave an intolerable situation, if only for an hour, is the only thing keeping a person sane. A prisoner, like someone being abused or beaten, needs to leave their body momentarily. This must be a survival mechanism inherited from our ancestors. Just like the “fight or flight” reaction, there is an “escape the body” one too.

Books have been created by humans to enter another state of mind. Books are learning devices and time machines. Books are records of what our ancestors thought. They are records of historical events and glimpses of far away places, people, events, real or imagined. The information contained in books can bring comfort to suffering people and inspire others into changing the way they live their lives and interact with other people. People from small towns can learn about the great wide world that exists out there. Lonely people, gays for instance, can realize they are not alone, there are others like them that have gone through the same things they have. Minorities can see that people from similar situations they grew up in have gone on to create successful lives for themselves. Sometimes, characters in books can become friends in a lonely persons mind and heart. Books are physical manifestations of the imagination.

I wrote a poem about this miracle:

Free!
Four walls can never hold me in
They are physical, like bone and skin
The body trapped behind this wall
cannot contain my soul at all
Imagination sets me free
Beyond the fence that surrounds me.
No bricks can ever stop my mind.
No bars can keep my thoughts confined
I can go deep inside myself
Like a dusty book on a shelf
Another world exists inside
My heart is free – I am outside!

-Submitted by Michael E. Heller
Pinckneyville Correction Center, Illinois

1 comments:

Kelly said...

This essay is very powerful. I volunteer at a prison for girls ages 13-21 elsewhere in IL and plan to bring the poem to share with them. The girls love to read and always bring amazing insight to each book we read; I know they will appreciate the poem greatly!