I’ve never been one to read non-fiction. Those self-help books have never held an appeal for me. I know many for whom their self-help selection of books is sacrosanct. They find it hard to contemplate releasing those books back into the world through used book stores.
For me, it’s my fiction. I used to think that I was some how lacking in curiosity because I didn’t read non-fiction. That those “True Stories” somehow held less “truth” for me than stories in fiction did.
That being said, I completely got sucked into the foreword in Amy Tan’s “Saving Fish From Drowning”. In her foreword she talks about the main character in the book as if she knew her. Leading the unsuspecting reader to think that the story was based in truth. Later I heard her say on a talk show, “I’m a fiction writer. Why would you assume that anything I wrote in my work of fiction was anything other than fiction.” And indeed, why would we? Yes, there are certain “rules” about forewords and their veracity, but those “rules” aren’t written down anywhere. They are just societal “assumptions.”
What I find interesting about all of this is that lately, I have come to the belief that pretty much every theory I have about anything is all just story. And that there is no “truth” that can actually be talked about in any meaningful way.
I have had experiences of what felt to me like being the the center of pure love. There is no good way to talk about this, no way to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it what it was like. And, my experience of love or the now or whatever you want to call it, may be completely different from someone else’s experience because of all of the experiences that lead up to it.
Ooh, I’ve gotten philosophical. That’s interesting to me, because here is what got this post started. I was reading “Maisie Dobbs,” by Jacqueline Winspear. It’s a lovely book about a private investigator. And here is the quote that got me thinking about the learnings I get from fiction.
“”Truth walks toward us on the paths of our questions.” Maurice’s voice once again echoed in her mind. “As soon as you think you have the answer, you have closed the path and may miss vital new information. Wait awhile in the stillness, and do not rush to conclusions, no matter how uncomfortable the unknowing.””
This quote was referring to Maisie’s path of learning as she solves mysteries.
But it could also be applied to learning about the mysteries of life. I especially like the last line.
“Wait awhile in the stillness, and do not rush to conclusions, no matter how uncomfortable the unknowing.”
It’s that uncomfortable unknowing that I avoid so well. I rush to the conclusion so that I can avoid that uncomfortable, unstable feeling of unknowing.
I’ve been sitting just on the edge of unknowing for bit now, as I explore what my life purpose is now that my children are old enough to not need my constant attention.
For awhile, I was simply resting while they were at school, because I felt like I had poured my life’s energy into them, and then into their schools. And then I started learning about the work of Gay and Katie Hendricks, through the tutelage of Diana Chapman and Grace Caitlyn. My whole world expanded exponentially through their workshops and advanced works.
And yet, the books they’ve recommended to me have put me to sleep. The books that they adore, and consider to be life-changing for them, have not had that effect on me. The work within the books has been life-altering, but only because I’ve learned it from Diana and Grace.
I do, however, find echoes of those teachings in just about every piece of literature that I pick up. No matter how silly. I was just listening to a Jasper Fforde book (The First Among Sequels). Totally silly time-travel fantasy book, and yet, things that I have been learning are in that book.
Or this quote that I just spoke about. It’s in a detective novel. Why should I be finding philosophical thought-provoking passages in a detective novel? Because I can. Because I look for it, and because I am finally coming to fully realize that I learn through story.
The same way that my son learns through humor. I learn best through fiction and anecdote. So, if those self-help books have lots of anecdotes, then I’m fine, but if they’re busy talking about what I should be learning, without showing me “real life examples” (which is funny all by itself, if I’m thinking that everything is story), then my attention will not be held. And if my attention is not held, then I won’t be learning.
Hmmmm, I think my book is calling me.