"So I picked up a book, a book I had already read and loved, and moved out of my own world of numb pain and into the world of the book. I do not think that this was escape or evasion. The heroine of the book had her own problems with loneliness and anxiety and death. Sharing these, being totally in this different world for an hour or so, helped me understand my own feelings. " ~ Madeleine L'EngleI've wondered a few times in the last few years about whether I was just attempting escape from reality when I'd pick up a book during a hard circumstance. Someone told me it wasn't a bad thing, but I think I was afraid to believe them. Because I feared that it was a form of denial, a way for me to refuse to deal with the hard.
But then I stumbled across this small paragraph above and it made me think. Perhaps she's right? I mean, think about it. What happens when I pick up a book with characters who I love and connect with? I relate to them, and when that happens, then doesn't it make sense that I'd relate to whatever problem they're having and how they're responding to it? Right? It does! And the more I ponder this, the more I'm convinced that it's a really good thing, maybe even a needful thing.
Because when we're looking at a real life friend, we are a somewhat neutral judge (only not really). Still, we tend to judge them in a situation, rightly or wrongly. On the outside looking in to someone's life, it's easy to ascribe motives and feelings to them. It's a little more difficult for us to see that we may be judging wrong, and still more difficult to see the same thing we judged in them in ourselves.
But when we open a book, we get sucked into the story in our minds, so right from the start we're no longer operating from the outside looking in, we're already in! Yet as the omniscient reader (which we are because we're able to see the full picture that the writer is sharing), we start taking a look around this character's mind and begin making judgment calls. "This character responded this way, but should have responded this way." But when you add in the fact that this certain trait of the character is one we relate to (because we're the same, or similar at least), as we make judgments we can also start to see how/why we're doing the same thing in our own life. And realize we need to change! Maybe even as we see the character change, so do we.
Which brings me to the idea that books, especially fictional stories, can actually affect the way we are and the way we live. So reading a fiction novel during a hard moment doesn't have to be an escape (although it can be), it can be a way for us to truly begin to see ourselves.
Fascinating stuff, really. *ponders some more* What do you think?