Written for lovers of literature interested in self-actualization, Literature: How to Read and Understand the World teaches readers how to derive principles of wisdom from literature and apply them to their lives. The book achieves this through a series of five essential steps, including identifying with literary characters, aggregating principles of wisdom from their experience, and applying those principles to readers’ lives. Along the way, the author reveals his own transformation through this process. Literature: How to Read and Understand the World will help you to enrich your life and world!
Over the next several months, I will be releasing excerpts from the book along with questions to keep readers thinking after reading the posts. If you are intrigued by what you read, please share with a friend!
When you read a work of fiction, there is probably a part of you that feels excited at all the new information you are taking in. This is the part of you that plans to later relay this information to impress somebody, say at a dinner party or in a classroom. You’ll refer to the information you read in the work of fiction and the person will be blown away by all that you know, and for a moment you’ll get to feel like a master. While you read, this part of you governs your hand so that you take notes, underline passages, or circle key words. Your emphasis is on remembering things such that you can later use them.
At the same time, there is probably another part of you that is responsible for your reading the work of fiction in the first place. This is the part that, when an important character in a work of literature dies, quivers in you, draws back and feels pain. As this part of yourself, you extend the bounds of your selfhood outward to encompass the characters and situations about whom and which you read, re-inscribing the bounds of yourself such that you become larger than what you once were. This process is subtle, but it is happening at the level of your gut and heart all the time as you read. When you speak to somebody in class or at a dinner party, it is really this second part that motivates what you say; there is some sort of gut-level feeling response to the text that you want to relay to the person, and that you want them to feel too.
Do you experience both these “parts” of yourself when reading fiction? If so, is there a sort of tension between them? If so, how do you overcome this tension? How do you step away from the disposition of mastery and into the disposition of humility, of becoming the characters while reading? For more on these topics, please follow my blog or grab a copy of the book for yourself.