Fiction Can Change Your Life ~ BitterSweetLife

Monday, May 07, 2007

Fiction Can Change Your Life

And It Should

G.K. Chesterton
would tell you this, since he was the one who noticed that mathematicians, not poets, were the ones who went insane. C.S. Lewis, of course, would add his endorsement, since he came to the realization that a series of children's stories would best convey the theological truths that Britain was dying for. Tolkien would have agreed, although his methods were more oblique. And today, people like P.D. James and Frederick Buechner and Walker Percy are providing additional evidence.

There are many reasons that stories resonate with us. Probably the most central one, that people inextricably overlook, is that life is a story. Life is not a closed system or a syllogism or theorem. So if we limit ourselves to books, educational models and ways of thinking that treat life as a stack of color-coded index cards, we are going to miss something. Essentially, what we will miss is the shape of life itself.

Without imagination, without the child-like ability to treat life as a story that is not yet over, we are not more mature and in tune with reality, but less so. I can't help thinking that a life without imagination is a life out of touch, because the greater part of reality is unseen. A textbook is not the best place to learn about powerful, invisible beings. It would be like trying to size up a cumulus cloud with a yardstick.

This is just one reason that I spend time reading fiction when final exams start invading my personal space. Academic testing is necessary, but it has a way of skewing reality and making me myopic. One more reason why fiction can, and should, change your life. Left to itself, a life cordoned with unyielding logic will make your existence a tunnel, and, quite possibly, break your heart.

Fiction leads us away from the pasty illumination of florescent lighting and the artificial air that blasts from cooling vents. Fiction helps us to get outside, away from what is urgent and into what is vital. Fiction leads us to what escapes us, "the quality of the real universe, the divine, magical, terrifying and ecstatic reality in which we all live" (Lewis).

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tim said...

Well said, and true.

I may need to link to this...

Timothy Goering said...

Really like this post.
I've come to the same conclusions, myself. I find it important to dive into other fictional spheres, and create your own as well every now and then!
Things that enter my world need to be worked out and set into place - fiction, in this sense, can become a highly important functional tool for identity and subjectivity!

So: when did you say your novel was going to get published, Ariel?

Gilbert said...

I found some great fiction book reviews. You can also see those reviews in Christian fiction


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife