I have spent a lot of time reading and writing this month — which means I have spent a lot of time learning. Mostly about myself.
Both activities have an unexpected and unsettling way of reaching deep inside, grabbing hold of your heart and soul — your fears and hopes alike — ripping them out and putting it all on the table in front of you. It is something you can’t ignore —for too long at least.
Every story serves a purpose, even if to simply relay a message. When we are being told a story, not only are the language processing parts of the brain activated but so are the sections that are used to experience the events of the story. The power of the story is that it has the ability to connect with you on an emotional level. It gives reason to care about what is being said.
How many of us have shouted “NO” into an empty room after a beloved character died in the book on your lap? Or suddenly realized you have been holding your breath for the last three pages and then (hopefully) let out a long sigh of relief shortly after.
Essentially, we experience stories and become a part of the story themselves.
As said, a good story connects us to feelings. Feelings let us know what matters to us. And as such, our thoughts then follow. It gives us insight into what makes us tick. What was important? Why did our stomach bunch in knots or our blood boil during various points?
Many times it is a surprising journey. It starts with a sentence, then a visceral experience. A feeling, then a thought. One thought leads to two and then ten. Before too long, we are Atreyu standing at the second gate in The Neverending Story, looking into the mirror that reflects our true selves. We, sitting there on the other side of the mirror reading the book while our other self is living the path laid out in the book.
When we step through the pages and come face to face with ourselves in a safe setting that is distant enough for us to not be defensive about what we encounter we emerge at the end no longer the same. We are armed with a new perspective, evolved and slightly wiser, if about nothing else other than ourselves.
Recently I had read “The Immortalists” by Chloe Benjamin (full review incoming) —a novel about destiny and choice. As each character chose a different path of how to live their lives, I found myself often taking pause to reflect on my own feelings of how I would or do go about living life while death looms ahead. When I was done, I spent the next few days immersed deep in thought, reflecting on how my culture, upbringing or beliefs have shaped my behaviors in how I subsequently carry out living life. Intentional or not, Benjamin thrust me into an existential musing I was not expecting.
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
And the gateway to wisdom is opened through reading and writing. It unlocks your emotions and then unleashes a chain of thoughts which always lead to …. yourself. And from there, anything is then possible.
Artwork by sandforte