Emily’s Weekday Wonderings – March 30, 2017
This is the week of Canada Reads. This year the theme is to choose the book that all Canadians should be reading right now. It’s an interesting question to ponder, whether or not you are following the discussions and debate of the Canada Reads panelists, or intend to read any of the books on the list.
Of course, the theme is premised on the notion that reading can be transformative – and that works of fiction or memoir can inspire change, offer insight, nurture compassion, and ultimately make the world a better place. Do we approach our reading this way – particularly our reading “for pleasure” whether fiction, poetry, biography, or history?
Laura Schocker in her 2013 Huffington Post article “6 Science-Backed Reasons To Go Read A Book Right Now” highlights research that has suggested positive benefits of reading, from potential mental wellness advantages such as destressing and helping lower levels of depression, to benefits related to aging such as keeping your mind sharp and reducing the risk of Alzheimers’s, to what I might term a spiritual benefit of developing empathy. While Sarah Begley begins her 2016 article in Time: “It’s well-established science that reading boosts vocabulary, sharpens reason and expands intellectual horizons. But the latest round of research on the benefits of literature focuses on how it improves not our IQ, but our EQ.” There are even people who now offer “bibliotherapy”.
As a life-long lover of literature, it’s wonderful to hear that this might not just be something enjoyable, but something that’s good for my health. As someone who hopes for a life-long process of being a part of making the world a better place, it is exciting to hear the premise of this year’s Canada Reads competition, and conversation engaging the relationship between literary merit and important topics of our time. As living into the Christian faith, it’s also not surprising. Our scriptures are premised on the notion that words, language, and stories are transformational. In our first story of creation (Genesis 1 not Genesis 2 – that’s a different story), we heard that creation happens with words, and chaos is transformed by language. The gospel of John begins “In the beginning was the Word.” Language, speech, story, are at the beginning of everything.
On Sunday, when I joined the children for Sunday School, we heard about how Jesus told stories to explain what is important, to answer questions, to offer visions. Stories are powerful in part because they say more than one thing, they invite you in to engage and interpret, to become a character, to be transformed. It was fun to do this on Sunday, just as each week it is good to do this with you, as we listen again to the stories of our faith in scripture and our lives, and prepare to be transformed.
Blessings, Emily Gordon