Purpose of reading – how to identify good and bad?

My dad and I were having a nice discourse this evening. His view is that only those books which are good should be read.

One must decide which segment of the colour chart we want to be a part of: black, white or the gray. Gray generally is not good as it means indecisiveness. Black is usually not chosen unless we want to consciously go to the path of evil. Thus it falls to white. Now, if we have decided to follow the path of good, then we should implement it by reading only books which are considered good, like religious discourses, some self-help (I hate them) or any books which teach us something. We should stay away from books which we know do not teach us anything useful to follow the good path (like Nana, which is what I was reading thus leading to this conversation 🙂

Though I totally agree with my dad (as always), I find it hard to reconcile one thing; how do you determine what is good? How can one identify what is good without knowing what is bad? How do you know happiness without knowing sad? How do you know you are fortunate if you have not witnessed or experienced misfortune? Thus how would I know that Bhagavad Gita is a good book without reading books like Nana?

It takes intellectual rigour and willpower of mind to delve into something and not touch it again. For example, I tried wine during INSEAD but have never touched it again. I admit it’s not something everyone can do, even I fail (in my ever present fight against having ginger tea!). However, if one is confident of one’s direction in life and is confident of not wavering too far, then I believe one should know the evil in order to better appreciate the good.

That’s not to say one should do evil, but following the three monkeys and purposefully staying away from evil is not good. In fact it’s detrimental as the world is not a good place, and not knowing bad is going to harm you more than help. If someone plays dirty politics with me tomorrow, unless I have encountered it personally or have heard someone’s experiences, I would not be able to identify the game played, let alone react to it. Then is following the 3 monkeys a good idea?

I am not so sure….