Reading, Imagination, and Growth
Can we ever become better until we sense and wish to transcend the insufficiencies of our current life? But how do we gain an awareness of those insufficiencies? Through prayer and repentance, of course, but also through reading. Do we have any hope of becoming more like our Creator if we cannot “modify our natural angle of regard upon all things . . . to see[things] differently”—a vision altered, I would suggest, through reading? If we fail somehow to acquire the skill of entering into unfamiliar worlds anew, how can we avoid being trapped—literally damned—in our current imperfections, and how can we ever begin to imagine the infinities where God dwells and labors?
Can we, I wonder, ever be gods and goddesses of our own universes, eternal parents of imperfect beings who will have to go through the mortal travails as each of us will have done, without somehow having an understanding of and even an empathy toward our flawed progeny?
Many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are . . . They can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally. They can refuse to know. . . . I think the willfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid. . . . What is more: Those who choose not to empathize enable real monsters.
I'll still indulge in literary marshmallows, but you'll never convince me to avoid "hard" books altogether that have characters, themes, and stories that make me stretch, learn, and maybe even ache.
Stories that maybe, just maybe, will help me develop a bit of godlike compassion and understanding.