Sunday, March 16, 2014

Why Reading Makes Me a Better Person

I'm writing a post that is not a book review, tonight. I hope you'll agree with what I am saying, my beloved bookish buddies!

We live in a world that is often full of hate. Full of people who are different from ourselves. Sometimes so fundamentally different, that we cannot wrap our brains around their understanding. The internet has allowed all of us to have a voice, maybe even those who maybe should not(I am not condoning that anyone should lose their freedom of speech, quite the opposite). There are a lot of people out there with a very narrow idea of how we should live and they are often very vocal about telling us all their opinions. Sometimes I just want to shut out the world and hunker down with just my family and my books. (Okay, okay- everyday I want to shut out the world and hunker down- you caught me!) I often feel deeply unsure of how to navigate the hate-filled posts that tend to fill our social media feeds. Do I scroll past? Start a discussion with someone that is not open to changing his/her opinion? Unfriend them? Post a bunch of loving memes to balance out the hate? I don't have the answer, friends.

Today I perusing Facebook and there were anti-gay memes, a post against Muslim children living in the US and a few other less than savory posts. I felt deeply saddened. This wasn't just random internet postings, these posts were made by my Facebook "friends", people that I have known personally at one time in my life. And, I don't believe that any of them are bad people, just very closed minded.

So, I'm outing myself- I used to be closed minded, too. I was easily influenced by what others told me as a child. I've always been a voracious reader, but didn't always open my heart to be changed by what I had read or even what I was experiencing for myself. I did not have enough confidence to form my own opinions.  And, I always took the opinions of those I knew personally over what I felt when I was reading. So, I allowed my priest, my teachers, my family to form my opinions for me, even when my heart protested.

As a teenager, however, I began to feel  my heart opening with each novel or non-fiction book that I picked up.  I felt as though the blinders were torn off my eyes and suddenly I felt my heart and mind open to viewpoints that I had never before considered. This "mind and heart expansion" has never stopped, or even slowed.

Those who chose(or do not know how) not to read live only one feeble life. Just one. Those of us that read live hundreds, thousands even. We open our books and fall down the rabbit hole into a world we had never before imagined. We turn the last page and know that we are fundamentally different from when we had turned the first page.  We are better. Wiser. More open to humanity. Feel that we  have traveled to a different time, a different country. Worshiped a God that we had never before heard of. Loved a person that in your "real" life you never would have chosen,  Knew what it may be like to live as another gender. Felt that you had mothered a child, fathered a child, met a famous historical person....the list is endless.

We only are given only one true life. We get to choose what to with it(God willing that you live in a country where you are free to do so). That is such a blessing. We are also given the choice to lose ourselves in books and come out bigger and better people. Let us all open up our hearts, forget all that we have learned and been taught thus far in our little lives and open up a book today. May we all be a little more understanding when we close the final page.

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