Friday, October 26, 2012

Books are magic

Why haven't I been reading every day of my life?

I never really read anything but textbook assignments all the way through school. And when I did read something, my lack of patience and undiagnosed A.D.D. was what kept me more interested in movies, I suppose, than committing to reading an actual book. But lately, I've been reading again. And I'm starting to get panicky if I don't have that time at the end of the day to escape into a book.

I just finished two books by Orson Scott Card. The first one, Pastwatch, is subtitled "The redemption of Christopher Columbus". Card is most well known for the Ender's Game series, which I read a few years back. He's such a good writer that it doesn't matter the topic, he nails the reader page after page. This latest one, Enchantment, is a different spin on the story of Sleeping Beauty. Card had to really do his homework on the book as it is steeped in the scholarly character, Ivan, who is one of the few speakers of a dead Slavic language allegedly spoken by the cursed beauty and her community. Ivan gets to experience a scholar's dream by entering the fairy tale and coming face to face with the likes of Baba Yaga, history's most infamous witch.

I'm reminded again that fiction is the only thing that connects me to reality. I just can't read non-fiction for long, which is why I think, I was such a lousy student. I was buried, like most students, in non-fiction textbooks. Which is like eating predigested nutrition bars for every meal. After a while it seems to make more sense to skip a lot of meals rather than submit yourself to "what's good for you".

It's a nice feeling to have this escape into reality though. It's a great place to be able to find food and drink for the soul. I have a much better understanding of Orson Scott Card's research to reproduce a version of what "could" have been the pre-Russian village of Taina. The thought that a king ruled alongside his people, leading them both into war as well as leading them into harvest and laboring at their side to prepare to have food through the harsh winters.

And that's the point of fiction I suppose. Coming into the election, it's interesting to note the differences of a courageous leader that takes to the battlefield wearing his own sword, and one that spends most of his last elected year trying to convince the people that he's worthy of another four years. This is a non-partisan comment, for all elected officials on either side of the proverbial aisle makes the same mistake. I found the idea in fiction though, not by observing this or that incorruptible contemporary government or system. The power of mythology is really the narrative we need most in these alien days.

History has a way... they say, of repeating itself. May it be the case. I hope I live to see the day when the power of an influential person in my life is not forced upon me because I'm one of the voting masses. Rather would it come by intimacy and my own inability to resist the winsome and honorable courage of someone that wants to do the right thing. It's never simple, and often fraught with mistakes, fairy tales do have a way of glamorizing the ideal. A good story well told, however takes us through the journey of that hero in the best of times and the worst of times.

As Baba Yaga cannibalizes her victims and plucks out their eyes to make potions and spells, it's clear that there is nothing tantalizing about evil. Yet evils we must endure. We are all in a story... many stories actually. We, all of us have the rights and responsibilities to live them the best we can, and to rise above our own mundane textbook lives. I for one, will be picking up more fiction so that the truth of the stories I'm living have some bearing. Non-fiction is meant for instruction manuals and recipes at dinnertime. May the rest be myths and legends to encourage whomever comes after us to continue to do the rightest things they can. Complete with mistakes and setbacks. There is magic in the book itself, because the story has the power to conjure and seduce the mind. A most dangerous, and welcome companion for whatever's left of my own journey to the end.