Monthly Archives: September 2017

Evelyn Eman Delmar

From the Archives: Rejoice, Bookworms!

Note to Readers – Every now and then, I will re-post a blog entry that has withstood the test of time. Whether you missed it the first time ‘round or read it years ago, I feel it’s worth sharing again. I chose Rejoice, Bookworms! from September 15, 2013 after going on a shopping spree for more books than my shelves can hold (several shelves are now 2 rows deep!). In addition to boosting brain function, studies also revealed that booklovers tend to be more empathetic, a much-needed quality in today’s world.

Have you seen those ads for Lumosity, MyBrainTrainer and other “brain gyms,” where you can fork over $15 or more every month to keep your brain youthful? The fear of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia in later life is as common as the fear of heart attacks and strokes. While some of us head off to the fitness center, others are investing in online brain games. Mental exercises, say “the experts,” can keep you sharp in old age, just as physical exercises keep your body fit through the years.

Time to break out the confetti and rejoice, fellow bookworms! According to research findings reported this past July in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, reading books and writing can do as much for you as ready-made mind exercises.

Findings from a six-year research study, supported by the National Institute on Aging and the Illinois Department of Public Health, are remarkable. Memory decline was reduced 32 percent in bookworms who continued reading into old age, compared to engaging in average mental activity. Those who neither read nor wrote frequently experienced a 48 percent decline in memory. “We shouldn’t underestimate the effects of everyday activities, such as reading and writing, on our children, ourselves and our parents or grandparents,” says study author Robert S. Wilson, a neuropsychologist at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Save your online “brain gym” membership fees and pick up a book instead. Don’t waste another moment. Just like physical exercise, the sooner you start and maintain a regimen, the better you’ll be in the long run. A seven-year study of 2,000 healthy individuals aged 18 to 60 found that mental agility peaks at 22. By 27, mental processes like reasoning, spatial visualization and speed of thought began to decline.

So let your mind take leaps and bounds. Let it take flight. Delight your synapses. Read a book. Then share it with a friend.

Evelyn Eman Delmar

From the Archives: Why Writers Write

Note to Readers – Every now and then, I will re-post a blog entry that has withstood the test of time. Whether you missed it the first time ‘round or read it years ago, I feel it’s worth sharing again. I chose Why Writers Write from September 22, 2013 as I reflect on the many award-winning, bestselling authors I’ve met during the past three seasons of BOOKS ‘n’ BOTTLES™. We’ve completed our shortened third season with changes to the events that have been enthusiastically received by authors and booklovers alike. Exciting plans are underway for a full 2018 season! Meanwhile…

I recently chatted with two writer friends about why we write. This is a question I’ve pondered frequently since becoming aware of The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida, recently published in English by Random House. What makes this best-selling book especially intriguing is that the author (only 13 years old at the time of first publication in Japan in 2007) is autistic and his autism built steep walls over which it seemed impossible to express his thoughts or feelings.

The translator of the book into English is bestselling novelist (Cloud Atlas) David Mitchell, whose son also has autism. Mitchell has noted that the physical and mental challenges Naoki faced in writing a book is a powerful testament to the human need for connection. In a Slate Book Review, Mitchell compared the writing challenge Naoki has to “the act of carrying water in cupped palms across a bustling Times Square or Piccadilly Circus would be to you or me.”

In a Publisher Weekly article, Mitchell said, “Naoki does have autism, and pretty severe autism at that. And yet, he both experiences and analyzes emotions, even if he can’t express these in direct speech, and has to type about them. If we ‘neurotypicals’ don’t think this is possible, I believe it shows the paucity of our imaginations and understanding.”

Naoki Higashida still writes. He keeps a nearly daily blog and has become a respected autism advocate. He continues to face – and overcome – formidable obstacles to writing.

Which brings me back to the question: why do writers write? It is probably for the same reason dancers dance, singers sing, visual artists paint, draw or sculpt, and musicians play instruments. It begins with the need to express our humanness. We say we are compelled to do it; we give birth to a brainchild (or brainchildren), much as one must give birth to physical children once they have formed within us. And though we would likely do it even if no one paid attention, we are most gratified when people do notice, especially if they respond positively.

From the art of prehistoric cave dwellers to Twitter fans today, we need to leave an imprint that claims our moment in time. That says “I was here and I had value.”

Ask a writer why he or she writes and you’ll invite any number of answers. I think it comes down to survival. We write in order to connect something within ourselves to something bigger than ourselves. We write to feel a sense of belonging to something beyond ourselves. To belong means to not be alone. To not be alone improves our chance to survive. Finally, to write means to “survive” beyond our mortality; to continue speaking. To hope there will be at least one person listening.

Evelyn Eman Delmar

Have Faith

Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark. – Rabindranath Tagore

Who among us has not had our faith tested? Even an atheist has faith in something. At this moment in time, most of us are experiencing a test of faith, whether up close and personal (happening to us or loved one) or viewing crises from some distance (happening to those we don’t personally know but identify with).

When life seems unfair, even blindly cruel, our sense of balance is thrown. We seek explanation, justification or, at least, perseverance through storms of circumstance. When there is little or nothing left to hold onto, we cling to faith. Faith is a uniquely human universal experience.

When we feel especially vulnerable or alone, solace and inspiration can be found in some of our best literature. They help renew and nourish our faith, whether the source of our faith comes from humanity or something beyond. How many of these books – fiction and non-fiction– have you read:

The Power of One – Bryce Courtenay
Year of Wonders – Geraldine Brooks
The Kite Runner – Khaled Husseini
In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist – Ruchama King Feuerman
The Nightingale – Kristin Hannah

Tuesdays with Morrie – Mitch Albom
Mountains Beyond Mountains – Tracy Kidder
Letter to My Daughter – Maya Angelou
I Am Malala – Malala Yousafzai
Last Chance Mustang – Mitchell Bornstein

My coming to faith did not start with a leap but rather a series of staggers from what seemed like one safe place to another. Like lily pads, round and green, these places summoned and then held me up while I grew. Each prepared me for the next leaf on which I would land, and in this way I moved across the swamp of doubt and fear. – Anne Lamott