Friday, February 7, 2014

Finding Truth in Story.

Stories make us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving.  Madeline L'Engle

If you know me in real life, you know that I love to read.

I went to school in the loosey goosey 60's and 70's.  My elementary school was a sort of experiment with "open education."

Credit: Text Rain by Kyungduk Kim.  Found on Pinterest

At my elementary school, we were able to arrange our own schedules.  So my schedule involved reading....and very little math.  I re-learned many basic math skills when I studied Montessori education. I am sure my teachers should have forced me to study more math.  But the gift of being able to read was amazing.  Being a different time and age, we were even able to walk across Mitchell Park to the public library to get books during the day. Our school library was open all day and even after school.  I read many of the same books over and over again.

I read classic literature for sure- All of Madeline L'Engle, Noel Streetfield, Louisa May Alcott.  Those characters are real in my mind-somehow I think they exist in some other world and that I might meet them some day.  Not every book that I read could be defined as "great literature."  But they were good books and good friends.


Recently I read this article in the Christian Century Saved by fiction.  It powerfully brought home to me the role that reading fiction has played in my life.  
Quote from the article 

But of all the spiritual disciplines I have ever attempted, the habit of steady reading has helped me most and carried me farthest. Of course, reading scripture has been indispensable. But reading fiction—classics of world literature, fairy tales and Greek myths, science fiction and detective novels—has done more to baptize my imagination, inform my faith and strengthen my courage than all the prayer techniques in the world.

Francis Shaeffer (Reformed people's St. Francis :)) said in Art and the Bible "Christian artists do not need to be threatened by fantasy and imagination. . . . The Christian is the really free person . . . whose imagination should fly beyond the stars."  What could be better than a "sanctified imagination."?  I have sometimes heard non-fiction described as true and fiction described as not-true.  I think this is a poor distinction as we find tremendous truth in fiction.  Stories teach us about other people, other countries, other experiences. Stories help us to disappear into the lives of others.

I have just started reading The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit. It's a marvelous book of essays that begins this way.

What's your story?  It's all in the telling. Stories are compasses and architecture; we navigate by them, we build our sanctuaries and our prisons out of them, and to be without a story is to be lost in the vastness of a world that spreads in all directions like arctic tundra or sea ice.  To love someone is to put yourself in their story, or figure out how to tell yourself their story.
Which means that a place is a story, and stories are geography and empathy is first of all an act of imagination, a storyteller's art, and then a way of traveling from here to there.  What is it like to be the old man silenced by a stroke, the young man facing the executioner, the woman walking across the border, the child on the roller coaster, the person you've only read about, or the one next to you in bed.?

So read.  Read for yourself.   Read to your children.  Read things aloud to your spouse.  Read fiction.  Read non-fiction.  Read to learn and read for fun.  Read for the joy of it.   Just read.

Horn Book Cover Jan 2009

It was pleasant to take a hot drink up to her room and have it beside her as she sat in her silent room reading in the empty house in the afternoons. The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives. She went on olden-day sailing ships with Joseph Conrad. She went to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and to India with Rudyard Kipling. She travelled all over the world while sitting in her little room in an English village."
— Roald Dahl ~ Matilda

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