Sunday, August 31, 2008

Why I read fiction

Reading has always been a major part of my life. A day when I haven't read something (for pleasure, not counting newspapers, websites and work) is a wasted day, and if several days go by without reading, I feel I'm missing something.

Reading creates a strange form of intimacy between the mind and imagination of the writer and the mind and imagination of the reader. The images formed in the reader's mind are a combination of what the writer intended and what the reader creates from the words. It is not quite a conversation, since the words go in one direction, from the writer to the reader. But it is probably as close as you can get to being inside the mind of another person.

Fiction uses language both to express ideas with precision and also to convey feelings, impressions and atmospheres in a more fluid and intuitive way. Fiction can often be "about" something other than its apparent subject matter. It makes the reader think about certain ideas, and also arouses certain feelings. Obviously, these thoughts and feelings can vary from reader to reader, and may be very different from the writer's intentions.

I read to learn about other people's minds and imaginations. I read to "escape" from my own reality, but it is a beneficial escape because reading enriches my life with new thoughts and ideas. It lets me experience things from different perspectives. I can make decisions about questions such as "how would I react in this situation?" or "did this character do the right thing?".

I wrote in the previous post that "we are what we think". Since this is the case, I like to fill my mind with a wide range of material. Each new book I read exposes me to new ideas, new thoughts and new choices. I find that reading develops me more than any other art form (though I love music and enjoy films), and what I want to share in this blog is the things I have learned from my reading.

Friday, August 29, 2008

We are what we think

One of the most interesting news stories I have encountered recently is new research showing that talking about past trauma may not improve a person's recovery. It may be better to "forget" the past, or at least not to dwell on it.

See article here

This seems obvious to me.

We are what we think! Human beings are the sum of their thoughts, feelings and actions in the present moment. Of course, this does include their memories of the past. But the past cannot be changed. Only our reactions to the past are in our control.

People who have experienced trauma can make their own choices. Some choose to define their lives by it, becoming a full-time victim. Others find the strength and resilience to continue their lives, filling their time with positive thoughts and actions. Which would you prefer?

My personal experience includes living through war. Two years ago, I lived through the daily missile attacks on my city, Haifa, during the Second Lebanon War (as it is known here). At the time, when the war finished, I felt emotionally depleted and vulnerable and really didn't know how long it would take me to recover. What happened was that quite quickly I returned to my daily routine, as did almost everyone I know. Instead of dwelling on the experience, it seems that most people in Haifa just got on with life, and our experiences of the war are hardly ever mentioned.

This may be how some Holocaust survivors dealt with their traumas, in silence. Presumably, some victims of all types of trauma (war, rape, abuse, accidents) have just chosen to move on and fill their present and future with positive, enriching thoughts and experiences. I hope the new research will show them and people around them that this can be a good decision, and that people should not be forced to discuss the past and undergo this sort of therapy if they prefer to continue their lives.


Welcome to my new blog!

My aim is to share my thoughts on things I encounter in life, and on books I read.
I'm looking forward to writing about issues of ethics and human behaviour, personal development and positive thinking, worldviews and world affairs, all from my personal perspective on life.

For a long time, I have wanted to write about my reaction to the books I read. I am not a book reviewer and have not studied literary theory. These are my personal reactions to what I read. Spoiler warning! My posts will probably give away plot details of the books discussed. If you prefer not to know too much about the plot of a book before reading it, please avoid reading my posts about books you haven't read (and intend to read).

To my readers in Israel, who may be asking why I'm not writing this in Hebrew: there are two reasons. First, to reach a wider readership; and second, because the books I read are in English. I hope this blog will be readable even for those who are not native speakers.

Thanks for your time and attention, and watch this space!