There is a side of education and philosophy which just love literature. When you hear of things like Great Books programs it is generally a university curriculum based on reading the great classics of literature as the centrepiece of education. Philosophy in many ways is also the study of great books in history. But Philosopher Martha Nussbaum has argued for the benefits of reading literature, on ethical grounds. By reading fiction and about the lives of various people in various times and spaces one gets a look into the life and minds of others. In this way we can expand our subjective sense of self, and get into other peoples shoes for a period of time. For Nussbaum, she thinks that we can become more compassionate and understanding human beings through reading like this. To develop a moral imagination. In this way, the rural man from Nantucket can read about and understand somewhat how it is to be a women in Afghanistan. I have always like this approach to ethics, and to helping people grow their hearts and expand compassion beyond themselves or immediate family and friends.
However, a writer and Facebook friend named Morgan has shared some very interesting insights into this. Perhaps most interesting is the idea that fiction can teach us that some humans are not likeable and that everyone is different.
What follow are Morgans great insights!
"Every day I keep seeing people watching the news. Something we are told to do every day because it keeps us with current events. This thought isn’t necessarily very bad, but so much of the news today is opinioned. It tells people what to do and how to think. Meanwhile, here I sit thinking all this news actually good for people. I have to admit that the more I read literary fiction novels the less I care about the here and now. We don’t stop and think about how others think.
What I mean by all of this is that not everyone is the same and if we read more fiction that is literary, we would see this. For example, there are some people who think about death and there are others who think about life. I’m not saying I promote suicide, but sometimes I can see why people kill themselves. We still live in a world where we are told who to be, what to think, what to look like, and some feel like they can never tell the world who they really are; being different, weird and maybe a little crazy is perfectly fine.
There are so many books that I feel like I read were I tell people what they are about and they just stare at me and act as if I’m speaking of a foreign language. They constantly read books that simply entertain them or they will read non-fiction that tells them this is what happened. My two favorite authors of all time (Virginia Woolf and Yukio Mishima) just feel like they are shoved in the corner sometimes because people don’t want to read “different” thinkers. They want to stick with something that is familiar to them and stay in their safe place I feel. When it comes to reading, don’t just read your safety zone books, read books that might make you agree with the opposite viewpoint or at least let you understand that viewpoint a little better.
What if I told you that there are book about people were everyone is dislikeable. Things happen you hate to read or don’t agree with and you might even think the author is insane. In my mind, those are the best book ever written. Why? Those books show to me that we are capable of understanding the human race by realizing that no one is the same. These characters aren’t just figments in your mind, these character actually breathe and have souls. Authors have been writing these books for ages too, so we need to start realizing that one thing that makes us “human” is the fact that our minds are different form one another.
I feel like people who spend their lives reading just non-fiction and the reading the news don’t see that world as I do. Which oddly I think is perfectly fine, I just feel sad for them in a way. They never know that people like me exist. I’m someone who has sexual feels to both sexes, someone who isn’t part of a political party, and someone who was baptized Protestant, but believes that all religious are true. For those who just read non-fiction and the watch the news, I urge you to try for a week not looking at the news and read a book that digs into the mind of a character rather than an event. Challenge yourself and don’t assume everyone thinks the same way you do. This should be obvious, but looking at last year it feels like people want me to be yin or yang, when I rather be yin and yang.
I realize my way of thinking doesn’t imply to everyone and I know some people might not like my way of thinking, but that is fine with me. I don’t want everyone to agree with me. I do like thinkers and people who can make a joke with just about anything. I think some people take me as this serious depressing person because I never talk, but I’m open in worlds, but if you really know me, I like making jokes or getting people to think about things in a different light.
"Time. Time is what matters. As time goes by, you and I will be carried inexorably into the mainstream of our period, even though we're unaware of what it is. And later, when they say that young men in the early Taisho era thought, dressed, talked, in such and such a way, they'll be talking about you and me. We'll be lumped together." ― Yukio Mishima, Spring Snow
Note: Some non-fiction is wonderful to read especially philosophical and psychological ones or some biographies. I just feel like non-fiction doesn’t really do a good job at digging into the mind and taking about the everyday person."