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I have a friend who desperately wants me to read the novel Twilight. And I am desperately resisting. The book is about a teenage girl that falls in love with a vampire. I know that some of my readers who are fans of the series (you know who you are!) will tell me that it is about much more than that, but for the sake of this post we will leave it there. When my friend asked me why I didn’t want to read it I peevishly answered, “I don’t have time for Harlequin romances with vampires.” This wasn’t my highest self speaking, but truth be told, I’ve been having a hard time expressing the more exact reason why I do not read this book. Here are some of the possibilities:
(1) I’m afraid that I might like it. (2) I’m a complete and total book snob. (3) I don’t have time for books like this. (4) I don’t do escapism. (5) I want the books I read to “matter”, whatever that might mean.
There is probably a nugget of truth in each one of those reasons, some much more than others, but the last one comes closest to hitting the nail on the head.
We all read for different reasons at different times, simple entertainment, information, distraction, escape (the “Calgon take me away!” commercial is popping into my head), the enjoyment of books and words. But for me, whether I am perusing the shelves at the bookstore or library, reading the reviews of books at the back of my various magazines and journals, asking friends what they are reading, or voting for our next book club pick, I am looking for a book that will change me. Change might come about from being exposed to new ideas or new information, but also simply from being in the presence of the beauty and grace that I find in great writing. I’m not saying that this desire is better or worse or higher or lower than any other reason for reading a book. It’s just true for me at this stage of my life and I want to attend to it.
When I choose a new book, it is because, on some level, I am always hoping that it will contain both Truth and Beauty. Now, don’t worry. I am not going to try to tell you what Truth (note the capital “T”) means on the global or cosmic scale, and certainly not on the level of the personal because of course, I have no idea. I can only know my own Truth, once in a while. But in those moments when I really experience Truth, I feel it physically, in my body. Sometimes it manifests just as a prick behind my eyes, sometimes as running rivers of tears, but most often it is just some sort of small shift within me, a recognition of being in the presence of something that I already know, of coming home to the right place.
What do you hope for when you pick up a book? How do you know your own truth?