A life of books and reading is a subject that my editors and I have always wanted to explore in ARS VITAE . Our work involves writing, and we all love immersing ourselves in a good story. But when we started
conceptualizing how to approach this subject, we found that it wasn’t just reading that we wanted to talk about, but reading slowly and deeply. So this is the theme of Volume 3.
Unlike in the past, books are no longer the sole source of knowledge and information. The Internet, often accessed from our smartphones, has become our go-to source of simple facts and information for some
time. Conversely, reading slowly and savoring the meaning of the text is becoming defined as belonging to the domain of books. And it is considered a rare luxury indeed. In this day and age where we speed search information in much the same way we consume fast food, we no longer seem to spend the time to get to know anything closely and deeply.
Truly getting to know something is an act of love that requires time. Whether it be a person, a place or a story in a book. When we spend the time, we discover new aspects and depths that had escaped us before. I learned this through my relationship with my parents. One day, all of a sudden, it occurred to me that my parents were the two people that I have known the longest in my life. They had me in their 20s which means that
I have known them since they were a young man and a woman. Not only did my parents witness my growth, I have also watched them as they lived through the various vicissitudes of life for almost half a century. But it
took being in my 40s to really understand them, not just as my parents, but as human beings with their own dreams and aspirations, who made unique life choices on their way to becoming the people they are today. Seeing them in this new light gave me a renewed appreciation and respect for who they are and all that they have done.
Deep understanding takes time. This is true not only for the people we love, but the land that we live in and the culture and traditions that shape us. In order to understand who we are and what we are made of, we need
to spend the necessary time – just as in the process of reading and rereading, we come to make a book completely our own. Reading a book deeply and slowly is much like living life in all its shapes and colors. There are in books reflections about the complexity of life in all its varying shades as well as all possible human emotions described in the most delicate details. If we don’t have time for the books that patiently wait for
us on our tables and bookshelves, when will we make time for the people and moments that pass in time and slip through our fingers?
In compiling articles and artists’ prints for Volume 3, we discovered that many people in the world are involved in reviving the art of slow reading and that there is even a slow reading movement.
In communicating with our writers, we also learned about the special relationship between the Korean people and the written language. Korea, although a small country, ranks number 5 in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. The oldest surviving text printed with wood blocks, a Buddhist text from the first half of 8th century, is in Korea, and the oldest metal type printed document is also another Korean Buddhist text which precedes the Gutenberg Bible by 78 years. The Korean written language, Hangul, has been praised for its unique phonetic system and pictographic codex of symbols. And so in celebration of the heritage of written language, in this volume there are articles about “Textimage”, a late Joseon Dynasty form of painting that converted Chinese characters into picturesque images, and the Tripitaka Koreana, a compilation of Buddhist teachings which has been preserved for almost 1,000 years.
When ARS VITAE was first launched, a friend commented that it is a publication that one needs to spend time getting to know. He is right. It is a heavy book that you need to sit down to read. We choose our paper
carefully so that you can feel its texture. We are not online so that you can spend time with the physical book itself. Everything we wanted to talk about in Volume 3 about knowing something closely and deeply, we try to embody in ARS VITAE. So putting together this volume has been a very special process for us. And what a happy journey it has been, we are richer for it.