Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: fiction Page 1 of 5

Does Grendel Represent the Chaos of the Natural World? Part 2 of 2

When last we met, I was spiraling into the depths of a natural world filled with violence and chaos. If you haven’t read it yet, pop back to “Does Grendel Represent the Chaos of the Natural World?” and take a look.

Shall we continue?

“What does a kingdom pretend to do? Save the values of the community – regulate compromise – improve the quality of the commonwealth! In other words, protect the power of the people in power and keep the others down. By common agreement of course, so the fiction goes. And they do that pretty well. We’ll give them that.”

That is exactly what your kingdom, I mean, our nation’s government is doing right now. It’s also very much why I am leaning towards peaceful and non-violent anarchy. Live and let live.

“Rewards to people who fit the System best, you know. King’s immediate thanes, the thanes’ top servants, and so on till you come to the people who don’t fit at all. No problem. Drive them to the darkest corners of the kingdom, starve them, throw them in jail or put them out to war.”

This reminds me of my social media feed and tv news. Comply with what those in power wish or suffer the consequences.

“What is the state in a time of domestic or foreign crisis? What is the state when the chips are down? The answer is obvious and clear! Oh yes! If a few men quit work, the police move in. If the borders are threatened, the army rolls out. Public force is the life and soul of every state: not merely army and police but prisons, judges, tax collectors, every conceivable trick of coercive repression. The state is an organization of violence. Revolution, my dear prince, is not the substitution of immoral for moral, or of illegitimate for legitimate violence; it is simply the pitting of power against power, where the issue is freedom for the winners and enslavement of the rest.”

Public force and coercive repression, the cornerstone of any central government. When you pass a law by vote, you’re asking a separate group of people to use deadly force against those who do not comply. You may think it is best, but when people get held down, beat up, and shot by police for not stopping to receive the punishment for breaking that law, are you ok with that? When the police stop a teenage boy for not wearing a seatbelt, and for whatever reason they feel threatened and shoot him, that is the result of your law. When someone doesn’t pay the appropriate taxes and the government comes and takes everything they have, puts their family on the street, and takes that person to jail, that is a result of your law. When someone buys a drug and sits in their own livingroom alone to use it and relax, and the cops bust in to drag him to a box…I could go on and on but I’m digressing.

Bottom line is that when you vote for a law to be put in the books, you are authorizing violence on another in your name.

“Who says I have to defend myself? I am a machine, like you. Like all of you. Blood-lust and rage are my character. Why does the lion not wisely settle down and be a horse?”

Stop hating! Stop doing drugs! Stop … whatever. Geez! Let people be who they are and choose whether or not you want to associate with them. You know a lion by his look. You allow him to live his own way, in his own space. And you avoid running into him as prey. How about we do the same with other humans?

“Tedium is the worst pain. The mind lays out the world in blocks, and the hushed blood waits for revenge. All order, I’ve come to understand, is theoretical, unreal – a harmless, sensible, smiling mask men slide between the two great, dark realities, the self and the world – two snake-pits.”

I know, it’s all pretty dark and I had a bit of fun wallowing around in it today. I hope I didn’t terrify you. I do get a tad worked up though, especially lately. I’m feeling frustrated and lonely in this world. It seems everyone around me wants so desperately to live inside a fantasy world.

Nature’s reality can be terrifying and cruel, but we humans have a special gift, creativity. We can use it to recognize the world around us and attempt to do better for ourselves, or we can create a little bubble in our minds and live there as long as we can. That is until the bubble is burst and the world’s violence comes flooding in.

Me? I prefer to be aware of the real danger in this world and adjust my own behavior, take my own calculated risks based on my own experience (and the advice from trusted professionals), and allow everyone else to do the same.

I like Grendel. He’s a mean, nasty, violent dude. He has no remorse for who he is. He makes it very clear what he is and what he’ll do. It’s on you to be bigger and stronger than him or respect his boundaries and let him be.

Here’s something interesting I just found; this book is on the Banned Library site. Over the years it has been banned at several schools for being “anti-christian, anti-moral, and violent” and “profane.” Makes you want to read it even more, doesn’t it?

My Empty Nest is not the End of the Word, But I Could Use a Hug

Every parent experiences the empty nest at some point, I know this. But what if we didn’t have to tuck it all down and experience it alone? Vulnerability in the midst of struggle is not my specialty, but sometimes I feel that my saying something might be just what someone else needs.

The perfect quote for an empty nest on a winter sunrise background.

“And this, he decides, is what a good-by should be.
Not a period, but an ellipsis, a statement trailing off, until someone is there to pick it up.”

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab

Goodbyes are so hard. The end of a chapter, the turning of the page. I loved this ellipsis analogy. I often use those, and my son tries to tell me I’m doing it wrong. “It’s not a pause, Mom!” I know but…I like it that way! Think about it.

“Goodbye.”
Door shut. Time’s up. It’s over.

“Goodbye…”
Turns slowly. Starts walking. What’s next?

It’s different and it feels so much better.

And then this one.

“That time always ends a second before you’re ready.
That life is the minutes you want minus one.”

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab

Yes, it does. I’m going through a big one of these right now. My youngest child has gone off to University in another state. I’m officially retired from everyday Mom-ing.

I have an empty nest.

Everyone knows that once you’re a mom, you’re always a mom. We have an amazingly close relationship. I never experienced that “teenage” stuff, where they shut themselves off from me. I know they’ll always be texting, sending me pictures, and coming back to visit as often as they can.

But… (I did it again)

I’m alone here all day now. And when my husband is done working, we’re alone all evening and all night. And when I get up in the morning, there’s no reason to keep quiet. I can do what I want at any time of day. The TV isn’t on unless I’m watching it. No one is playing music in the middle of the night. No one interrupts what I’m doing. It’s so damn boring.

I’ll admit that I was excited to retire. We have three kids. When the first one left, we relaxed. There was a bit more space in the house. When the second one left, we were happy. There he goes! Two down, one to go! We looked forward to the youngest taking off. If all three of our kids were out in the world taking care of themselves, we were off the hook. We did it. Done! Children are a huge, long-term commitment. It’s incredibly stressful.

But… (he he he)

It’s so quiet. And then…I’m choking up again as I write…can’t we have one more day? One more drive into the city? One more dinner? One more, “Guys! WTF? Can you not?!”

I wasn’t ready.
I seriously underestimated how hard an empty nest would be.

But…

Are we ever ready? I don’t think so. We just have to dive in and keep flailing around until we notice we’re swimming.

I’ve hesitated to write about this for several reasons. It’s so fresh. I’m still working through it. I don’t need other people’s crap right now. But it keeps coming back up. A scratch in the record that needs to be dealt with, not ignored. You’ll only keep hearing it every time you get to that part of the music.

The first is, as usual, I don’t want to make my kids feel bad. They are doing nothing wrong by growing up and going out into the world. Pursuing our own path is what we all do. That’s normal and good. While I’d certainly have no problem with them living here forever, I want them to chase their own dreams without worrying that the mother they love so much is having a nervous breakdown. It would defeat the purpose of raising children into adults if they were so afraid to hurt my feelings that they never left home.

The second is that I’m not good at being this vulnerable. While I’m good at telling others what I’ve already been through and worked on, I cringe at the thought of asking for sympathy and help as I need it. I’ve recently come to notice that my culture fosters independence over just about anything else and I’m not sure it’s all that healthy. Stand on your own two feet. Buck up. Don’t be such a baby about it. From childhood and adolescence, into adulthood, marriage, children, and on until we die, we’re encouraged to keep our feelings to ourselves, to deal with our own shit alone.

I’m starting to question the wisdom in that. The times that I have reached out to talk to someone about something I’m going through, I’ve always found that I’m not alone. Life’s stages are common. We all move through them. Amazingly enough, no matter what you’re going through, there are others that have been there, felt that. The key is finding those people, and they’re usually very close by, remaining silent, believing they are alone in the world too.

And the third reason is people’s reaction. I don’t find support when I express my pain, I generally find platitudes, dismissal, or worse…help or sympathy. We’re not trained in supporting others through something difficult. Have you ever felt something so strongly, a feeling you just don’t want to feel and can’t get away from? Have you ever told someone about it and they said, “That’s just life. It’ll be better tomorrow.” Yeah…not helpful. Or worse, “Everyone feels that. You’re being ridiculous.” And “I told you this was coming.”

What do I want? To be completely honest, I’m not sure. Maybe I simply want to be heard and to get a hug. I’d like to hear an affirmation. “This must suck.” Or “I feel that from you.” Maybe even questions like, “What are you going to do?” I also really enjoy hearing other people’s painful stories. “There was a time I felt that way.” Or “I remember when…” I hear that and I think, “Yes. I’m not alone. I’m just one of the humans here. Life does go on.” And then I consider what’s next or cry some more. It depends on my mood. Sometimes I want to wallow in my sadness awhile.

Ultimately, the story continues no matter what happens to any of us. It isn’t a period, end of line, close the book. It’s just…what’s next?

I blogged about “The Invisible Life of Addie Larue” when I started reading it back in January. It certainly didn’t take me long to read it all. I couldn’t put it down! Have you read it? You can find it on Thriftbooks.com if you don’t have it. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments when you read it!

What is the The Key to Understanding Love?

Love is complicated. We can’t possess people like we possess things. We can’t turn a key and make people love us the way we love them. The key to understanding love starts with loving yourself as a complete individual.

Understanding love is not possession quote on a desert background.

“It’s because I love you that I won’t. Love is hungry. Love is selfish.”
“You’re thinking of possession.”
He shrugs. “Are they so different? I have seen what humans do to things they love.”
“People are not things,” she says. “And you will never understand them.”

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab

I’m reminded of one my favorite stories here, The Phantom of the Opera. I always cry for the Phantom. He loves her, but she refuses him. Why? It’s not the ugly she can’t get around, it’s that he misunderstands love. He’s twisted and tortured into thinking possession is love. He twists and tortures her world in order to turn her toward him, to make her love him.

I always wondered what would happen if she decided to love him, despite his evil ways. Would it end up one of those “unconditional love changes people” stories?

That’s what Addie is trying to express here. The Darkness is so removed from humanity, (because he isn’t human), that he is incapable of understanding love.

Writing that I just thought this same thing could be said about the Lucifer character in the TV show. It’s part of why I loved it so much. There he was on earth with humans, learning about them in every conceivable way but love. Lucifer learns to experience love, what it means to be human.

Addie is right. He has confused love with possession, as most people do. That’s why he hasn’t been able to learn the difference. Examples of real love are few and far between. We should know and be able to practice the difference, but we rarely do. It’s easier to possess another than to love them.

Relationships are complicated and there’s so much to do. To experience real love (and not possession), we need to start with ourselves. And loving ourselves is no picnic.

I blogged about “The Invisible Life of Addie Larue” when I started reading it back in January. It certainly didn’t take me long to read it all. I couldn’t put it down! Have you read it? You can find it on Thriftbooks.com if you don’t have it. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments when you read it!

Developing New Habits: Using Prompts as a Writing Session Warm Up

I love developing new habits, especially good ones that make me feel like I’m getting somewhere. I have found that I’m a naturally habitual person, so if I can make one little change in my routine stick for a few weeks, I have a very hard time letting it go. I have to be careful though, I can easily make myself crazy with habits. Ok, crazier!

This new habit is writing related! Yay!

I’ve been wanting to write more fiction, but I find it difficult to get started, and then more difficult to stick with a story longer than a day or two. My current writing practice is to use quotes from the books I read as writing prompts, write for thirty minutes, edit the thirty minutes I did the day previous, and then post them. It reflects my attention span, for sure.

A couple of times last year, I was able to get my brain to move in one direction for nearly a week and was very happy with the stories I was able to cobble together. I want more of that! Come on brain! Work with me!

I went looking for prompts and found Reedsy! I haven’t submitted any stories yet, since today was my first day of this new habit, but I’m totally going to. This might be just the sort of spontaneous publicity this girl needs!

As a teaser…I know you’re going to love this…this is what I came up with this morning.

On my side, long pillow tucked under my arm and a knee up, fetal position. Feather blanket and heavy quilt in disarray, one foot partially out from underneath. The perfect temperature.

The cat, perched up on my shoulder, purring away.

I lay there, still, awake but not moving. It’s dark, very dark.

What was I dreaming about? Something disturbing. That recurring one where I’m trying to explain something, and no one understands. No, they aren’t listening, and I get louder and more insistent until I’m screaming insults and epithets in a desperate attempt to get their attention. Blank stares, as if I’m not there at all and then suddenly, comprehension, and anguish in every face. They’re destroyed by my words, pushing away from me in pain. I wake from this dream often, several times a month, not with a start or tears, just quiet and helpless resignation, a deep and still sadness, wishing I could take my words back, wanting the ability to be quiet.

I lay there another minute. I’m warm. I’m safe. It was just a dream.

Then that feeling comes as I lay there waking up…I should get up. I have things to do. Places to be. I can’t be late. What time is it? I carefully crane my neck to see the red numerals of my clock at the foot of my bed. Without my glasses, my sleepy eyes can’t quite make out what it reads. The cat complains of my movement. I’m disturbing his sleeping place. I lay my head back down.

That’s all I have time for this morning. I have a breakfast date with a hot babe! But I’m looking forward to working on this and adding more. Will I actually submit something? I hope so!

I have written some stories in the past. I keep them collected on my Short Stories Page. If you like any of them, please share!

Ultimately, Most Life Choices are Just Best Guesses

There’s no way of knowing which life choices will end up getting us where we want to go in the long run. We’re working from a moving platform that is time, and aiming at a moving target that is satisfaction.

“…paralyzed by the idea that whatever you choose to do, it means choosing not to do a hundred other things…”

The invisible life of Addie Larue by v.e. Schwab

There is one thing that limits every human on this planet and that is time. We only have so much time in a day, a week, a lifetime. When you choose to watch an hour of TV, you choose not to do other things. If you choose to make a delicious dinner at home, you choose not to go out to a restaurant. It’s a fact of life that cannot be changed no matter how clever, rich, or powerful you are.

We all come to that realization at some point in our lives. Some of us have a very hard time accepting that fact and it makes us completely crazy. We stand there in distress, attempting to decide which is the better choice. What is the thing that make us the happiest? Which choice will lead us further down the “right” path? It’s enough to make any thinking person neurotic.

Ultimately, I’ve decided that it doesn’t matter. Once I accepted the fact that I can’t do everything, that I had to live with the choices I make, it started to become easier. The next step was to enjoy the choice I made. That’s where it got complicated.

At one point, you’re looking over the choices you have. You puzzle over it awhile and eventually make your choice. Then, while you’re happily cruising along, you start to wonder, “Would the other choice have been better?” And now you’re not enjoying what you have.

Now what do you do? Invent a time machine so that you can explore alternate realities where you didn’t tell that partner to leave, you didn’t take that job or go to that school, or you decided to apply for a job in another state and moved. Wouldn’t that be nice?

What if we had a machine that let you play out exactly what would happen after each choice you made, and then you could choose which would ultimately work out best? Oh! And it took no extra time! A perfect world.

It’s not possible, outside of sci-fi movies. What can we do instead? Make the choice that makes you most happy right now, and not worry so much or so far into the future.

Photo by Bhargava Marripati on Unsplash

I’m imagining back when my sons were taking an interest in indoor rock climbing. The woman helping them learn told them, “Your only goal is to find the top your own way. Hold on and look for your own next step. Make it. Steady yourself. And the look for the next one you can reach. You may need to go sideways or back down a bit, but you’ll get there.”

That’s life.

I blogged about “The Invisible Life of Addie Larue” when I started reading it back in January. It certainly didn’t take me long to read it all. I couldn’t put it down! Have you read it? You can find it on Thriftbooks.com if you don’t have it. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments when you read it!

Why My Personal Story Telling Helps Me Stay Connected

Story telling isn’t just for entertainment and gaining attention. And it comes in so many forms. What medium do you use to tell your story?

Story telling to preserve one's self quote on a desert background.
That’s Calico Ghost Town in the back ground. There’s a family story to that too.

“Stories are a way to preserve one’s self. To be remembered. And to forget.
Stories come in so many forms: in charcoal, and in song, in paintings, poems, films. And books.
Books, she has found, are a way to live a thousand lives – to find strength in a very long one.”

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab

What drew me to this book in the first place was the reference to stories and a bookstore, so it makes sense that the first quote I share from it would be this. There’s a lot here, though, so I’m going to try to pull it apart a little.

“Stories are way to preserve one’s self.”

I’ve always been chided and teased for story telling in every conversation and not just because I’m getting old(er). Even when I was in my early 20’s, I’d be at work telling someone the story about the time I went water skiing and got so sunburned or the time my brother jumped off the roof. As I got older, married, had kids, etc., the stories just kept coming.

I take pride in knowing that I will be that old lady in the corner of the livingroom spinning my yarns, “I remember the time…” and all my great-grandkids will want to listen but everyone else will roll their eyes. “We’ve heard this one!”

Why do we tell stories about our past?

“To be remembered. And to forget”

I want my friends and family to remember the things that have happened to me and the things we experienced together. I can write them down for posterity, and I frequently do, but telling them is my favorite. Something about sitting and remembering together is so comforting. It’s like reaching out to touch your partner in the night, a reminder that we are all still here.

When we’re together telling stories, some of us add details or their own perspective, things each of us might have missed. We solidify the story each time we tell it, a verbal family history. It’s the ultimate “family bonding” time.

We also tell stories “to forget.”

In that moment, when we are together with friends and family, swapping stories about our past, sharing tales of our childhood, embarrassing our teenagers with their cute baby stories, we put the current time with all its stress way into the background. For those moments, we don’t worry about bills that need to be paid or that meeting we need to attend at work.

Hearing each other’s stories like this also puts today into perspective. We may be currently stressing over work, home, business, and the state of union, but when we hear all our stories, we can see that nothing has changed that much. Our parents and grandparents worried about the same things. Life just keeps on going, kids do crazy things, adventures are had, no matter what is happening in the world.

What form can stories take? Like she said, “in charcoal, and in song, in paintings, poems, films. And books.” Most of our stories come in the form of words told over the dinner table or sitting around the livingroom, but some come in the form of a quilt my aunt made, a ceramic figure my grandmother crafted, or painting by my mother and her friends. It can also be the song my sons play, the robot they tried to make with their dad, and the video my stepdaughter made and posted on youtube. They are all connected to memories, things that help each of us be remembered and live longer in other people’s memories.

And this, “Books, she has found, are a way to live a thousand lives…”

That’s why I read, but it’s also why I tell my stories. I am not just my life. I’m all the lives that came before me, all the lives and portions of lives that I’ve lived and heard of. My children and my grandchildren will have my life a part of theirs. Hopefully, my great-grandchildren will live a part of my life as well, even if they never meet me.

The quilt I made, the blog post I write, the pine tree I tended and got to grow tall, as well as the stories I told while we walked in the desert, are all part of the story that pass into the future.

Addie’s curse didn’t allow her to do that. She could live forever, be a part of the world forever, but no one will remember her. Her curse allowed me to see the beauty of what I have. And that’s why I love reading books.

I blogged about “The Invisible Life of Addie Larue” when I started reading it back in January. It certainly didn’t take me long to read it all. I couldn’t put it down! Have you read it? You can find it on Thriftbooks.com if you don’t have it. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments when you read it!

Grendel by John Gardner

Written in 1972 and apparently made into an animated movie, but it’s new to me! The story of Grendel by John Gardner through the monster’s eyes.

Grendel by John Gardner book cover on a desert background.

Judged a book by its cover, you did. -Yoda

That’s exactly what I did, Yoda. I know the basic story of Grendel. Something about a monster that comes to the hall each year and attacks the warriors inside. They always try to keep it out but it always wins. It’s from Beowulf, which I read a million years ago, probably in a English Literature class.

I picked Grendel by John Gardner out of my friend’s book hoard simply because of the cover. The creature looks so sad, not so horrific and mean like other renditions of it. I wanted to find out why.

Thirty pages into it this morning and I see why. This is its story. The book isn’t about the monster from someone else’s point of view. It’s told from the monster’s point of view. Why does it do this? What motivates its monstrous behavior toward the human world? I was sucked in this morning, already feeling sorry for it, wondering what will happen.

I looked up the book title and found (of course) a Wikipedia article about Grendel. I didn’t want to read too much of it for fear of spoilers, so I quickly moved over to the John Gardner’s Wikipedia article and read some there. It looks like he created a bit of controversy back in the 70’s, but who didn’t? I found that he had also written a few books on writing that were popular, and you know how much I love books about reading and writing! I’ll be adding those titles to my wish list.

Do you know this author? Sometimes I feel like I’m late in the game. I find something new and exciting, coming running in to share it, and everyone else just looks at me like I stepped out of time machine from the past. If you’ve read it, or want to read it with me, shoot over some comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts!


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“The Gods Themselves” by Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov book cover on a desert background.
“The Gods Themselves” by Isaac Asimov

I saw an Isaac Asimov book in that massive pile of books to be re-homed, and immediately picked it up. I have loved him ever since I read the Foundation books a few years ago. His sci-fi is unparalleled.

Do you like sci-fi books? If someone asked me, I’d say I’m not that much of a fan, but I do love the old classics. I love Star Trek. I’ve seen them all. I’ve read Dune and several Heinlein books. And the old movies? Love them!

But I’m not a sci-fi fanatic. I know people who are WAY more into it than I am. Maybe just an enthusiast?

Now I’m sitting here wondering if you could put people into personality classes by what book genres they love most. What kind of people like Fantasy? Romance? Historical Fiction? YA? Modern? Dystopian? It would be fun to work that out like a zodiac of sorts. Maybe I will! (adds idea to the list)

I especially love classic (AKA old) sci-fi because, even though the science is sometimes laughable (run this report up to the bridge!), the human struggle is still there, still relevant to our own time. Asimov has a great way of writing the science so well, that even I can follow along. Maybe someone who understood more science and math would think it was a deal breaker, but I can imagine what his worlds would look like, how things work.

And then there’s the underlying part of sci-fi, humanity. This book was written in 1972, so power supply is the focus. That’s what I love about sci-fi. You can see what people were worrying about when the book was written. If you know some history, sci-fi is even better to read. It’s fun to see what they predicted wrong, what became a non-issue and what we are still working on.

Here’s my favorite line from the first few pages.

“My facts are correct. And since they are, how can I be wrong?”

Craziest thing ever? Yesterday morning, while I was doing the dishes, I stopped and wrote this in my journal.

“We don’t all come to the same conclusions with the same information. There are infinite variables. It’s not math, it’s predicting the future. Even if we did come to same conclusion, it may not be at the same time. We need to give each other more space to grow.”

It’s an idea I was planning on spending some time on in the coming weeks. A few hours later, I need a break from the housework, so I randomly picked up a new novel out of my TBR pile to start reading. “Hmm…sci-fi sounds like fun right now.” Within a few pages, that idea boomerangs back to me from the universe.

And that’s what I love about the way I read. It’s like life. Follow your instincts, keep an open mind and an open heart, let go of attachment to outcomes, and see what happens. Not very science-minded, but it works for me.

Have you read any Asimov? Tell me what you think in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

You can find “The Gods Themselves” by Isaac Asimov at Thirftbooks.com if you want to read with me!


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The love of classic books can help humanity be more empathetic.

Book cover on book shelf of classic books.
The Pleasures of Reading in an Ideological Age

What do we have to learn from classic books? What could be relevant to me inside something written by someone that has so little in common with my own time and person? How can I possibly learn anything other than what happened in the past and what went wrong?

“Much of the way we perceive ourselves and the world manifestly changes as society, language, ideology, and technology change; but we also continue to share much as creatures born of woman, begotten by man, raised with siblings, endowed with certain appetites, conscious of our own mortality, confronting nature from our various locations in culture.”

“The characters and life situations of the narratives of different eras speak to us not because they reflect a knowledge which never changes but rather because they express a set of enigmas with which we continue to wrestle.”

The Pleasures of Reading in an Ideological Age by Robert Alter

That’s what a good book is all about. This is why we read novels, why we pick up books written a hundred years ago, by a person completely unlike us, from a place completely unlike ours. We see the commonality in the experiences of others throughout history, in fiction and non-fiction.

When we write, we create characters and put them in situations to experience and work through. While we write them, we are working through our own things, “wrestling” with that “set of enigmas.” And when you read it, you see our work and incorporate it into your own. It’s magical and crosses time and culture in a way no other medium can.

No, I’m not a young white female in Victorian England, but I can understand that character and use her experience to round out my own thinking. I’m not a black male in the American South, escaping slavery and falling in love…but I can feel those feelings, experience it, in a way through the authors words, and see ways we share humanity.

We learn empathy when we read classic books, fiction from ages past. We learn about ourselves when we experience life through another person’s thoughts, real or imagined. And we learn that what it really means to be human across all times and cultures doesn’t change that much. There’s some comfort in continuity.

Click over to my original post, “The Pleasures of Reading in an Ideological Age” to read my initial thoughts on this book!

Find “The Pleasures of Reading in an Ideological Age” on Thriftbooks and read along with me. If you do, be sure to comment so I know you’re out there. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Negativity Bias can be a Positive Force

An example of negativity bias from the book on a desert background.

The old negativity bias is a strong instinct.

“Just like in life, where beautiful moments vanish in a second, and things that ache feel like they stay with us a whole lifetime.”

The 28 Mansions of the Moon by Motaz H Matar

I’m not a romantic, so the first thing I think when I read something like this it, “Of course they do! The things that ache remind us not to do that again!”

Humans are geared, like any animal, to watch for danger signs.

I’m trying to remember who said it, but I remember hearing on a podcast that the good things can happen over and over again. That which will kill you only needs to happen once, so we have an eye for those things. We should anyway. That’s what has kept us alive.

The beautiful moments; the attentive partner, the hot coffee with the perfect amount of Irish whiskey, a taco expertly crafted (that’s meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and then siracha ketchup, for those that are unaware), we can experience them time and time again and get joy from them each time. We don’t need to remember forever the feeling of looking out over Main Street at Disneyland and seeing the castle. We can go see it again! And better yet, forget it and go experience something else, like a perfect score at a trap shoot or bowling game with friends and beer!

The things that ache though, that’s what we need to remember. The grocery store that always has the bad meat that you can’t eat the next day. That freeway that is always packed with cars? Better to remember that and find a new route. That romantic partner that gave you signs he would turn out to be a complete asshole? Yeah…things you should remember and avoid in the future.

If we’re wired this way naturally, if we all keep having the same response to the same phenomena, shouldn’t we consider why? Instead of thinking, “Wow. Humans have some serious flaws,” maybe we could consider how the response may have served us in the past and how we can use it today.

What Is The Negativity Bias and How Can it be Overcome?

Knowing that we are hardwired to pay closer attention to and hold on to the negative aspects of life can help us sort through and make sense of our feelings. Instead of romanticizing them and crying over it, maybe we can think logically and use this instinct to our advantage.

You can find this book and others at Motaz H Matar’s website. If you read it, let me know what you think!

I posted about this book when I started reading it at the beginning of January, “The 28 Mansions of the Moon.”


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