12 April 2009

We read to know we're not alone.

I had an interesting discussion last night about the role of fiction that I don't think I was altogether prepared for.  I don't even remember how the topic came up, but I do remember saying something along the lines of how I hope there are good fiction books in heaven otherwise I don't think I want to go there.  And I mean good fiction.  Fiction that isn't necessarily about people in the church kind of fiction.  I don't want my only option to be Charly by Jack Weyland.  

The person I was having this conversation with didn't seem altogether convinced.  Maybe as a non-English major he just hadn't considered it, which is fine.  From what I can tell in the brief amount of time I spent with him (it was on a double date - he wasn't my date) he seemed pretty well put together and nice enough to laugh when I inadvertently managed to be more sarcastic than I intended to be (which was more often than it probably should have been.  Need to work on that.)  Really, I think this is something that I think about quite a bit simply because so much of my life revolves around reading and fiction.  

So I'd like to elaborate on that now.  I still think there will be fiction in heaven.  And I don't think we're going to be limited to certain kinds of fiction either.  I have this idea that God has sent us to this earth to build and to create and to hone the talents He has given us, and that these talents will be used in the next life as well.  I don't think that seems unreasonable.  Why shouldn't books continue?  I think that books, and fiction books/stories/etc. especially, provide another way for people to learn to become more like the Savior.  Let me explain: 

First of all, the Savior taught in parables.  He taught in parables because the stories could be understood on multiple levels.  In that way, I think, the best fiction of our day can serve the same purpose.  One of my favorite sections of the Doctrine & Covenants is about the apocrypha, where the Lord says that if you read it with the right spirit you will find truth - that not all of it is right, but that you can be uplifted.  There is a connection here in that stories help people to see things from different perspectives that they had not considered before. 

I was also reminded of 1st Nephi 19 when we are instructed to "liken the scriptures unto (ourselves)."  We are told to take these stories and apply them to our own lives.  "This is like when _______ had to do ______, I should try _______ to solve my own problem."  In that way, we are taking stories that are part of our culture and pulling from them lessons we need to know.  This is how other stories work - only in this case the stories are "physically true" as opposed to the stories that were "created truth."  

When it comes down to it, I think it is a matter of the Lord recognizing that people learn in different ways.  All things testify of Christ, but that doesn't mean we all recognize those ways.  We think differently.  We feel the spirit differently.  Those who are adept with science and math (unlike me) can look at the universe and the way it all fits together and know that God is in it.  I don't see those connections.  But I do see those connections in humanity in the books I read.  I learn by reading.  By putting myself into the fictional feet of other people.  Ender Wiggen.  Harry Potter.  Anne Shirley.  Jane Eyre.  Briony Tallis.  Lucy Pevensie.  Tom Sawyer.  Etc.  The lessons I have learned about humanity and perseverance from these good (and occasionally not so good) "people" could not have been created in other ways.  There is a place for storytelling in the universe.  An important place.  And while I admit to a definite bias as an English Teacher, and understand that there are many other ways to learn and to draw closer to the Lord, I will argue until I am blue in the face that fiction is important and that I don't believe it is only a mortal tool of learning.  Heaven wouldn't be much of a heaven at all if there wasn't entertainment.  Theater and music.  Discovery.  Moments of peace and reflection.  The sheer pleasure of sitting on a quiet beach with a book so gripping you simply can't put it down.

1 comment:

Annie Japannie said...

Great essay! (this is Anneke)

And dang it, I'm trying to find an essay by Orson Scott Card that I think fits in perfectly with the discussion, but of course you can't actually find anything when you want it. He basically defends speculative fiction and explains how it can be truer than nonfiction, because there's no pretending that you're talking about real events - you're talking about real concepts and extrapolating them into fictional worlds to better clarify the discussion. It's awesome. I shall find it, and I shall share it.

Anyway - I liked reading your thoughts! I very much agree.