Monday, October 24, 2016

THE LIFE THAT'S FOUND IN LITERATURE....

"When masterful storytelling aligns perfectly with a humanitarian payload, the effects will be felt around the world, transcending genre or political agenda." (Tom Blunt)
What is it about a good book?  It can draw you right out of this world with all of its pressures, problems, demands and reality and into another time, place and existence, until you are immersed and all sense of the passage of real time seems to vanish.  Characters on the page become real, breathing entities - they are your dearest friends.  You are racing towards the end of the story, desperately seeking resolution, while at the same time terrified to see the whole experience come to an end.  What will you do without the experiences of these beloved characters to occupy your thoughts?  There have been many occasions when I have closed a book and desperately wondered how life dared to continue marching along as if nothing had just happened.  Now that I had read that book-experienced those pages-I would never be the same.  I was forever changed.  I am not too ashamed to admit that when I finished The Book Thief for the first time, I carried it around with me for a few days because I just wasn't ready to let go of that story - of that experience.  I couldn't even think about reading something new.  I wasn't ready.  For me, finishing a great book is like finishing a relationship:  you just need time to fully heal before starting a new one.

We have all heard about the benefits of reading.  It inspires creativity and imagination.  It makes us
better writers.  It allows us to see the world through different lenses.  But can reading great literature, fiction, in particular, actually help us be "more human?"  According to a recent article by Tom Blunt of Penguin Random House Publishing, those who regularly ingest good fiction tend to be able to empathize more with others; in other words, you may be be able to acknowledge and understand that other people have other points of view outside your own.  The reason?  Because when you read a great work of fiction, you see the world through another person's eyes, namely, the protagonist or main character.  You get a glimpse into their world and experiences, and are thus able to sympathize with their feelings, thoughts and beliefs!  Therefore, reading good fiction does more than build your imagination, it makes you better equipped to understand your fellow human beings in the real world, and accept varying points of view with more compassion.

Now, I personally didn't need another reason to read good fiction, but articles like this are kind of like those news bulletins that reveal that chocolate is actually GOOD for your health.  It just makes the whole pursuit of something you love a little sweeter!

Enjoy this article by Tom Blunt.  Read it carefully, then post your overall impression of the article. What did you like reading most?  What surprised you?  I would love to hear your thoughts.

And, if you have any great recommendations in fiction, well, go ahead and post those, too!


 

Friday, October 7, 2016

THE SEARCH FOR TRUTH in an uncertain world...

"There is an eternal landscape, a geography of the soul.  We spend our entire lives looking for the outlines." ~Josephine Hart

Whether we are consciously aware of it or not, each one of us is on a quest for truth.  It is human nature to wonder--to seek--to fill the gaps of knowledge, and color in the spaces between the known and the unknown.  We are not satisfied to "let it be" and accept that perhaps some information is beyond our grasp.  It is what makes life frustrating and wonderful.  It is what makes us pathetic and extraordinary at the same time.

We are seekers.

And thank goodness we are.  If we weren't, polio would still plague us.  The world would be flat.  Lands and islands would remain undiscovered.  We want answers.  We want to be able to look into the looking glass and see not the murky image but the real one.  We are searching for the truth.

Whether it's the Truth with a capital T or the truth about something specific, it is the same general concept.  Every subject you take in school supports this search:  What really happened on December 7, 1941 and what were the events that led up to it?  What is the answer to this mathematical puzzle, or what steps did Einstein take to derive his theory of relativity?  What is the author really trying to tell us in this passage, and does this symbolize anything profoundly universal?  We want the answers, and we want them to make sense to us.  We want to know, once and for all.  

Schools seek to teach us not only how to uncover "truth," but how to recognize when something might be masquerading as truth.  It starts early--some might argue too early--in elementary grades when we try to identify the differences between facts and opinions.  We try to define both--put them into a neat little box--so we can easily and quickly recognize both and decipher their differences.  

But...that begs another question...can "truth" be characterized in this way?  Can opinions also be facts?  What about morals and ethics?  Are they facts?  According to many dictionary definitions, they are not. So if our notions of right and wrong cannot be characterized as truth, but merely opinion, then why was the world so outraged recently when a cartoonist was brutally murdered because someone did not like what he had to say?  What right do we have to point fingers if "Murder is wrong" is a moral opinion, not fact?

So much to sift through.  I would like to challenge you to read this opinion article recently submitted to the New York Times.  Not only is it an excellent  piece of persuasive writing, but it also challenges the way we define truth and differentiate truth from opinion.  After you read, please answer the following questions:  1.  What, if anything, is wrong with the current distinction between fact and opinion?  2.  Is there such thing as "moral truths" or does everything that is classified as a moral or belief indicate opinion only?  3.  Is there such a thing as truth?  How do we recognize it? 
Maybe the search for the truth will always remain just that:  a search.  As the quote indicates at the top of this post, maybe truth is eternal.  Therein lies the quandary:  

We are bound creatures searching for  something boundless....