|Rob in Intensive Care in January 2016, reading Walter Benjamin|
Across from me, on a bookshelf is the last book Rob was reading and writing about before he became too sick to do either--6 weeks before he died. He had spent most of the fall and early winter reading a number of texts by Walter Benjamin and making copious notes about these texts and his thinking. My husband, the scholar. In January Benjamin's One Way Street and Other Writings was what he was mostly reading and thinking about and it is this book that I find on a book shelf in our home. And though we never discussed this outright, I knew he was reading and writing such dense text in order to save his mind.
Save his mind.
100 days in hospitals can kill more than just your spirit. It is a mind killer. In addition, all of the narcotics used to curb the increasing pain from the spinal lesions and then the rapid spread of the cancer from his right lung to his left lung, his sternum, ribs, spleen and liver also undermined his capacity to think. Reading Benjamin helped him to hold his world a bit more steady, to remind of him of the future he thought waited for him just beyond the cancer.
Reading and writing showed Rob's determination to live connected to the world and to not let the illness diminish his life. I think about this in light of the national interest, if not global interest in best ensuring literate learners. Today, I retweeted Noel Drew's (@Drewedu) tweet based on Neil Gaiman's insights about reading.
And then commented:
When I think about Rob's reading and writing life, I know it was these behaviors that helped him to keep positive and negotiate the difficulties that arose after his diagnosis. His intense love of reading and writing developed alongside the agency he felt in choosing when, what, and how to read and/or write.