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

Tag: humanity

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!

It’s Not The Plant

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This plant has been thriving for a couple years now. It’s in the corner of my bedroom, getting the damp soil and indirect sunlight it needed, and making me smile each time I see another leaf bud or another tendril start to grow and reach toward the window.

It wasn’t always this healthy. It came to me as three wilted leaves in a giant plastic pot filled with dried out dirt. I found it in an office with one west-facing window that never had its curtains opened. I’m not a big plant person, but every house has these and I knew it just needed water and bit of sun to thrive.

I’m not sure why I felt compelled to take it home and adopt it, but there I was each day growing increasingly frustrated with my co-workers when I’d leave for a few days and no one would water it or open the curtains in the afternoon.

After weeks of coaxing and no improvement, I decided to throw the whole thing away. The old plastic pot was starting to crack and any day now it would leak all over the filing cabinet anyway. I picked up the pot, carefully so as not to dump dirt all over the office and started walking toward the dumpster outside. Somehow…some way…the plant ended up in the bed of my truck. I might have been possessed by Groot. I just couldn’t throw those three leaves away.

Originally, I planned on putting it in a smaller pot with new dirt, getting it growing good and healthy, and then bringing it back to the office. Maybe I’d put it upfront near the big window and it would do better. Several months later, when it had really taken root and began to climb up my bedroom wall, I changed my mind. No one loved him like me! No one even noticed he was gone! He’s mine!

It’s sick really, the way I feel about plants sometimes.

Why in the world am I going on about a plant? Because no one is worthless. No person’s life is pointless. No matter how young or how old, there is an environment that they will thrive in. Don’t throw people away. Help them to find their place in this world and watch them grow into what they were born to be.

Connected by Souls

We’ve all heard it before.

“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” – John Donne

Earlier this week I listened to Aubrey Marcus’ interview with Humble as I drove to meet a friend for hiking.

The part I’m talking about starts at 8:40 but at 10:00 he says it most clearly. I’ll paraphrase. “We’re a drop in the ocean. If we separate ourselves completely, we’ll dry up.”

We all feel the longing to connect with other human beings at some level.

Christians say that God is in us, that we are created in His image, that we have a soul. What if that soul is actually a part of God and therefore, we are all connected in that way?

Remember the Borg from Star Trek Next Generation? All of the Borg are connected by a hive mind. When one is separated, it continues to communicate with the hive and becomes anxious, longing to return to the hive. If there is a small group of them, they operate as a smaller hive and aren’t as lost, but they still work toward reuniting with their source. What if we are like that with God?

What if that feeling of being disconnected and lost is because we have been separated from the source and now it’s getting worse because we’ve become separate from each other? On this physical plane, we can’t completely return to God, but we connect in small groups to ease our separation anxiety until we can. Or at least we used to.

When asked which was the most important commandment, Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40

To love the Lord God with all my heart, soul, and mind, is to honor the creator. To love my neighbor as I would myself, is to honor the creator in them. We love them on earth until we can all return as one to God.

Connections

 

When was the last time any of us met up with a bunch of friends for no other reason than to hang out?

In our teens and twenties we did it all the time, but when we marry and have kids our focus changes. Our social lives begin to revolve around the kids. Birthday parties, school and sports events, along with our work holiday parties, seem to be the only place we see people in person.

But what happens once the kids are grown? Where did all our friends go? I think social media is giving us a false sense of connection. We think we already know what’s going on in our friends lives because we see it on our phones every day, but that’s not reality. It’s nice because we can always reach out to old friends and new. We can reconnect passively when we find the time. My favorite thing about it is knowing that everyone from my past has gotten older too! But it’s not the same as sharing a beer and talking things out. It is more effort to go out or to host, but it’s so worth the cost.

This past year I’ve made the conscious decision to be the place where friends can connect in person. I started with hosting “Norwegian Independence Day,” a couple pool nights, and then my birthday. Everyone is invited and they come if they can, when they feel led to. It’s one of those “If you build it, they will come,” kind of things. It feels wonderful! Especially when people that I don’t usually get to see or haven’t seen in a long time make the trek out.

The weather is starting to warm up again, so last night we hosted another get-together. Half the people that said they would come ended up missing out for one reason or another. We all have our issues, right? But the ones that did come? We had a blast and I can’t wait to do it again.

There’s just something special about sitting around with a bunch of people, gathered together for no other reason than to visit. We drank, talked, argued, laughed, shot pool, played darts. Every time I do it, I’m reminded why I do. Everyone seems to love it so much and need it as much as I do.

I feel human again, a tired one, but definitely human. It’s magical.

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