Thursday, August 28, 2014

Stories Break Down the Walls that Imprison Us

Florida’s Governor Rick Scott reversed himself on the subject of Medicaid expansion after losing his mother. He said the experience of her death provided him with new insights.

Republican Senator Rob Portman changed his mind about gay rights after his own son came out to him. Like Governor Rick Scott, personal experience had a profound effect upon the politics and perspective of this man.

Our minds, when struck by the lightning of new ideas, when jarred into seeing with fresh eyes, assimilate the new and expand. We can no longer cherish the old when the new insinuates itself into our consciousness. And we should fling open the doors to our minds to allow literature to strike as lightning does--suddenly, brilliantly, and blindingly.

Literature invites us to step upon a path,
trusting that at the other end, we will find light.
Step upon it again and again.
Enlightenment awaits.
Photo by Al Griffin
The work of Khaled Hosseini, about which I have often written, is lightning for me. I had never imagined seasons or snow in Afghanistan. I never dreamed that kite flying could carry such weight or be so beautiful. I couldn’t comprehend Shia and Sunni Muslims in Afghanistan or as immigrants in the U. S. I dared not think about the harsh injustice that Afghan women experience. Now, having read his novels, I understand more, I sympathize, and I empathize.

James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Eldridge Cleaver, Toni Morrison, and Ralph Ellison have a similar effect upon my heart and mind. How could one read of suffering and injustice, of rage and longing without being moved, forever changed.

I can wade into the deep waters of nationality, of race, of ethnicity, of cultural differences with and through literature. I can embrace the human condition, common across time and distance. I can appreciate differences as well. I can learn that grief emboldens some of us, breaks many of us, and for all of us, tries our spirits. I can guess that no family is without some degree of dysfunction and that few among us can resist the Siren’s Song of power. Literature allows me to grow wise beyond my years and provincial upbringing. Read, writers. You must read.

Reading Challenge:

 “Read” the Ted Talk linked here.

Writing Challenge:

Identify the book that struck you like lightning. Briefly explain how you were changed by it.