Executive summary, part II (L:HtR/UtW)

Screen Shot 2020-03-18 at 10.18.53 AMWritten 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!

For me, two of my most successful instances of Executive Summary pertained to Pride and Prejudice and Hamlet, and I will share examples from both in order to demonstrate the breadth with which Executive Summary has changed my life. Here and in our process of reading literature as a whole, the ultimate form of assessment is that, when looking back, we’ll find that we were entirely different people when first picking up a work of literature and stepping off our Balconies; we were scared, reluctant, and had forgotten how to identify with characters. Following is the first paragraph I wrote in response to the above questions for Pride and Prejudice:

Before I began this learning process with Pride and Prejudice, I experienced relationships as a harmful thing that happened to me whenever I was stupid enough. Whenever I forgot myself, I would needily seek out a partner, and this would lead to us both getting hurt. For this reason, I thought the best position was not to need relationships, and that relationships were a sign of weakness. Deep down, I thought of myself as too weak to survive relationships.

A few things about this first paragraph before going on:

  1. For me, Pride and Prejudice seemed to be almost entirely about relationships, and about the byzantine ways in which we sabotage them through judgement and gossip. Through worries about what will happen to us should we be vulnerable with another person, we prevent this from happening altogether, which then provides grounds for us to complain about how lonely we are, to construct a world in which no one else is our match. Of course, these themes describe only what I got from the book, attesting to what I myself brought forward at the time I read it; still, this context is necessary in order to understand the content of my above paragraph on Pride and Prejudice as well as the one to come.
  2. In order to write this paragraph at all, I needed to identify with all the characters in the novel, as well as distill and articulate their experiences as first-person principles of wisdom. In other words, our being able to do the writing required by Executive Summary itself checks the previous step in our process of reading literature; if in my writing I sound much like Darcy and Elizabeth, that is because, prior to this writing, I have endeavored at length to become them. Without such a humbling and daring, we will not be able to make the yields that Psychic Mapping, Executive Summary, and Community Mapping help us make.

As alluded to above, the process of writing this first paragraph of my Executive Summary on Pride and Prejudice was painful for me. In order to do so, I had to acknowledge that prior to reading the book, I had been much like Elizabeth: I had viewed myself as impervious to relationships. From this position, any relationship I entered I did so with resentment, promptly projecting this resentment onto the other person and thus sabotaging the relationship. As I didn’t know at the time, all this happened because I feared vulnerability; I feared the loss of control that would come with admitting I needed other people. Like Elizabeth, prior to reading Pride and Prejudice I was at all times either alone, wishing I was alone, or regretful of how I had behaved during a relationship and fantasizing about the person with whom things hadn’t worked out; in these latter cases, I believed my life’s resolution lay in somehow going back and re-attaining the relationship. In all cases, my dismissal of my needs for intimacy created a romantic life of hardship and fantasy.

Have you ever identified with a character in a work of literature and not liked what you saw? If so, how did this help you learn about and improve yourself? Are you scared of relationships? If so, what is your deeper fear? For more on these topics, please follow my blog or grab a copy of the book for yourself.

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