Last time I shared with you guys some studies that talked about why reading fiction is so good at developing empathy and overall becoming better human beings, and as usual you guys sent the best responses.
Here are two extra things you brilliant people pointed out:
It makes sense in a way. Maybe it’s similar to the fact that children often don’t do what their parents SAY, but what their parents DO (so parents have to lead by example instead of just telling their children what’s right). We can read dozens of books telling us how to be, but in the end, we copy the people around us and the people we read about.
Another point worth mentioning is that while nonfiction does a good job of teaching us a lot of things, fiction includes emotions as well as facts and it has been shown (and you probably know it from personal experience as well) that emotions help us remember things, especially when it comes to long term memory.
And she’s of course exactly right.
Non-fiction is the story of what was, and we can learn from that. But Fiction is the story of what CAN, and in many cases, WILL be. Most of the worlds inventions and renovation of older ideas came from fiction.
I love the idea that fiction is what can be.
Those two ideas sort of merge together in my mind too, pointing to the fact that it’s most often in fiction (although biographies can do this too) that I meet someone who I want to be.
Someone who is brave in a way I am timid.
Someone who has compassion for something I’ve never understood enough to relate to.
Someone who embodies something I would like to be.
So it occurs to me that part of the beauty of fiction isn’t just that I can see what the world could be, I can also see who I could be.
On the topic of bravery, I remember when I was in my early teens, reading Lord of the Rings for the first time. When Eowyn pulled off her helmet and called out the huge, fearsome Witch King, I remember Young Me wanting to jump up and cheer. I remember thinking, “That is how brave I want to be!”
Have you ever met a character in a book who made you want to change who you were to be more like them? Or, I suppose, less like them?
I’d love to hear if you have.