Pointless Fiction

You know when you learn something about someone that makes you feel less about them? Like you learn something about their past, their feelings about something important to you, the things they did growing up, or the things they do now and you’re like, “Ew. I do not want to get involved with that person!” But maybe if you did, you’d learn something about the world and about yourself; if you could separate the learning from the painful experience of dealing with someone else’s growing pains.

We all experience this with the people we meet, whether we want to or not, but we wouldn’t go looking for it and if we did, we’d be a mess. No one goes looking for pain…but many times painful experiences teach us the most about ourselves.

Reading fiction, novels, lets us do that without so much emotional personal pain. We experience other people’s lives and learn from them, but we don’t hurt from it as much because it’s not real, or if it is kind of real, at least it didn’t happen to us. It’s like looking at Medusa through a mirror. She won’t turn you to stone but she’s still hideous to see.

I’m reading a novel right now that makes me look at my life, my behavior and wonder if I have grown up at all the last 20 years. The characters in it closely resemble characters from my own life in my early twenties. I can identify with many of them and some of them I don’t understand at all, much like some of the people I worked with back then.

It’s fascinating learning from other people’s choices and points of view. Back then, when I was in college, would I have made similar choices if I were in that situation? Would I make different choices now? I believe I would but, to be honest, I’m not so sure. Sometimes I think I’m more mature, more open, more thoughtful, and then sometimes I catch myself falling into a tantrum fit over something instead of having a reasonable conversation. Some things about myself I want to change so badly and I realize there are some things I just need to accept.

But this isn’t about my behavior! It’s about novels and why we read them. Sure, they can be great entertainment, but they can be so much more if you let them, if you read them the right way, with your mind opened to learning from other people’s lives, fictional or not.

The best part about the character in a novel is that you get to hear their thought process, the reasons behind what they are doing. We rarely get that in real life. We only see our side of an argument, of a relationship, or an altercation in the workplace, on the road, etc. We only see our point of view. In a novel, we get to see all of it.

For me, reading novels reminds me that other people in this world are actually people with their own lives and agendas, their own traumatic childhood or disastrous family. The person at the stop sign next to me is not an NPC (non-player character) in my game of life. I had to go ask my son what that’s called, by the way. Do you know what I’m talking about? Those characters in the game that just fill space or give some background to the scene? They don’t really do anything. You can’t interact with them other than push them out of the way or run around them to kill time. The people in the grocery store aren’t like that. If you talk to them, they’ll remember it and go home thinking, “Wow. That person was so nice.” Or “What an ass!” They aren’t always there standing in line behind you or wandering the aisles looking for soup.

We get so wrapped up in our own lives that we start to think of the people around us as NPC’s. But I digress yet again.

Go read a book. Fiction is just as important as non-fiction! We can’t let ourselves get too wrapped up in it though, just like we can’t get too wrapped up in other people’s drama in real life. We learn what we can from story characters. Real people do need a bit more of our attention and love, but the bottom line is that their life is theirs, not ours. Besides, I have too much to read to take on your crazy life as well as my own!

I saw a post about Tinker Bell this morning and my own bell rung. Imagine Charlie Brown talking to Lucy about phobias. “THAT’S IT!” I love it when I have moments like that. I posted the image and returned to comment, and that’s what led me to this post. Yep…animated fantasy movie characters get my mind going.

Here’s the image.

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Whenever I’m in a bad mood, when I’m feeling a bit grumpy and reactive, a little attention goes a long way. You may not need to change anything, fix anything, teach anything; just give me a little attention. “I know your mad.”, “What’s wrong?”, or even “You’re beautiful.”, will generally fix things with me. It gives me the power to resolve the situation myself. My sons are great at this. When they are doing big things, things teens have to do if they are going to move out into the world as adults, I get scared and sometimes I feel neglected. They sit and hug me, ask me about my fears and objections. They listen. And then they go do what they were going to do anyway. They do take into account my feelings, but I know that ultimately, they will do what they believe is best for them. Personally, I think it is the hardest stage of parenting so far.

But wait there’s more!

One of my friends said she didn’t like Tink, that she thought she was a “jerk.” This was my initial response.

“She’s a jerk because she’s passionate, protective, and independent. She’s beautiful and unsure of herself. Jealous to a fault. She’s small and mighty and fearful of being left behind. Her “meanness” is what you see but her motives…are beautiful. She needs to be loved and she’ll die if she doesn’t get that love. She needs unconditional love, not the kind that only hangs around if she’s sweet and gentle.”

All behavior is a symptom of someone’s feelings. We can’t help the way we feel about things. I’m having a hard time explaining this. I keep writing out the words and backing up. Let me start again.

Behavior is what we do when we feel something. It’s a trained action that starts in childhood. I feel cold and I grab a blanket. It might be someone else’s blanket. You might say, “Hey, that person is a jerk. They stole my blanket!” or you could think, “Why did that person steal my blanket?” That question might lead you to understand that the person was cold and needed to be warm. The only thing they have learned to do is take the first blanket they see.

Now, you’re probably thinking, “This woman is nuts. We can’t condone stealing because someone needs something. That’s anarchy!” I’m not condoning anything. I don’t need to think it’s ok for her to take my blanket because she’s cold, but I can understand and not be angry at that person. I can also lovingly ask why she took it and show compassion so she learns better behavior. There are very few people in this world that deliberately do things just to be mean. Almost everyone wants to be socially accepted and loved.

It could go like this.

“Why did you take my blanket? It belongs to me!”

“I’m cold and need one.”

“Well, so am I. It’s not ok to take things without permission, but I can see why you need one.”

“I need a blanket and you already have one, can afford another one, or I don’t care that you are cold.”

“Let’s see how we can get your own blanket without taking one from me by force.”

And you go off to buy her one of her own, help her find one from a charity, or buy one as a gift because you can and you love the person she is.

You know what she learns? Her needs are important and so are other people’s.

So, what does this have to do with Tinker Bell being a jerk? Tinker Bell is “acting out” as they say. She’s exhibiting nasty behaviors to get what she wants because she has learned no other way. She craves Peter’s attention and now he’s giving it to that damn Wendy. She’s jealous and rightly so, since Wendy wants Peter to leave Neverland and grow up.

There are lots of Tinker Bell’s in our life. Our children, our parents, our friends, our lovers, they all exhibit behavior we are not fond of. My children throw a temper tantrum over not being able to finish a movie before bed. My mother texts me a thousand times about where I’ve been. My friend doesn’t call me back because I forget her birthday. My lover is slamming doors and sulking. They are all symptoms of feelings and needs. What if we decided to look around the behavior and seek out what those needs are instead of punishing the behavior? If we knew what the need was, maybe it’d be easier to understand the behavior and help that loved one find a better way of getting their needs met.

Poor Tink. We see her as beautiful and filled with light. She can fly and make others fly, too! What more could you ask for? But really, she’s like all of us. She’s small and vulnerable and doesn’t know her own power. Peter could help her see that if he weren’t a child himself. Wendy does catch a glimpse of it but maybe she’s just too wrapped up in herself at the moment to help.

There’s so much more. I’d like to read the book again and focus on Tinker Bell’s point of view.