Literature and the Human Soul

Classic Books
Classic Books

“Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain … To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.” ~ Kevyn Aucoin

“Literature must rest always on a principle, and temporal considerations are no principle at all. For, to the poet, all times and places are one; the stuff he deals with is eternally the same: no theme is inept, no past or present preferable.” ~ Oscar Wilde

“I found that dance, music, and literature is how I made sense of the world … it pushed me to think of things bigger than life’s daily routines … to think beyond what is immediate or convenient.” ~ Mikhail Baryshnikov

“I pray for the change in perception that will let me see bigger and sweeter realities.” ~ Anne Lamott

This past weekend I uploaded the first episode of my “Loving Literature” series. I’ve been having so much fun learning iMovie, finding the photos, writing the copy, and recording the talking head and voiceover segments. It’s a joy to wake up feeling energized, to know that I get to work on the videos and my writing. Why did I wait so long to allow myself to have this much fun?

As I’ve been working on the series, I’ve refined my ideas about why literature is so important to me. Over these last years of writing, a transformation, or perhaps a revelation has been going on in my consciousness. This revelation has been like chipping away pieces of marble to get to the sculpture living inside the stone, or maybe it’s cutting the jewel to reveal the fire within. Whatever the process has been, I’m coming to understand in a profound way why authors, poets, and playwrights feel compelled to write. We need to convey to our audience and ourselves the depths of what it means to be a human being.

This feeling about literature began to gel during Thanksgiving weekend as I talked with my second cousin about my video project. He’s a mathematician, and has a very different idea of how the world works than I. He told me he doesn’t understand literature. That got me thinking about different personality types and how we are each oriented to view the world in unique ways. I couldn’t articulate why I felt literature was so important during that discussion. But it got me thinking. Today I can. In posts earlier this fall, I said that the idea for the videos came to me because of some students who were struggling with reading, but it’s really more than that. The arts provide us with a way to change our perception of the world.

Now don’t get me wrong. I admire people who can do math and see the connections between numbers and abstract ideas. We need those kinds of people to help us figure out so many things, but there is no equation that can reveal the pain, fear, frustration, compassion, joy, or love humans experience every day. Mathematics is a function of the mind. Literature reveals what is going on in someone’s heart. And that’s what compels me to write my blog, books, and do this video series. I want to help people understand a little bit more about what it means to be a human being, and maybe even why we’re here interacting with each other.

I know that we each live in our own little universe and see the world in a unique way. From my viewpoint, it is through reading and watching plays and movies that I can get a glimpse into the way someone else experiences life. When that happens, my world view expands. I cherish the times when I open up to a new perspective. Somehow the connection between me and everything else on the planet deepens and I feel great joy in that moment. I want to help foster those kinds of experiences in others. It seems to me that feeling empathy for each other is something we need very badly right now. That’s the purpose of my video series.

In case you are interested in seeing what I’ve created, here is the link to the introduction video on YouTube. I hope you’ll go watch, and subscribe to my channel.

If you would like to join my email list to receive notifications of new additions to the series, or information about my soon to be published novel, The Space Between Time, you can join by using this link.

Thanks for reading. Welcome to my new followers. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Opportunities

My Favorite Books
My Favorite Books

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” ~ Milton Berle

“Your big opportunity may be right where you are now.” ~ Napoleon Hill

“Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” ~ Betty Friedan

Recently I’ve been helping my sister brainstorm ideas for a series of YouTube videos to help promote her life coaching business. While we were talking, I got the urge to create my own videos. I have my own YouTube channel created some years back so I could post videos of my students performing their acting scenes. It helps if they can see themselves and the mistakes they make, but also seeing how well they do gives them confidence. For the most part, the videos are not public, only the people with the links can view them.

So, I already have a channel set up and I’ve been thinking how I can monetize it. There are people who make a great living posting videos. Maybe I can earn a little money too. But what would my videography theme be? Finally the idea crystallized through a series of events, to complicated to enumerate here, of creating videos tentatively titled “Loving Literature.”

It’s funny how lots of experiences and elements in my life collate and synthesize into a new, better understanding. When that happened last week, I got energized and I can’t wait to begin making videos.

What will the videos be about? The importance of reading and understanding literature, of course. In fact, to me it’s the most important basic skill we need because without being able to read, our learning is handicapped. It’s not that we can’t learn, it’s just a great deal more difficult.

Reading literature, watching plays, movies, and television are ways we can walk a mile in another person’s shoes. That’s what makes storytelling in all its forms so compelling. We’re fascinated by other human beings and their experiences. Stories help us widen our world view and understand people who have a very different outlook on life than we do. We can learn from their experiences. To me understanding what it means to be human is the basis for building societies, cultures, even governments.

In my opinion, if you don’t understand other human beings and why they feel and act the way they do, you can’t be a completely successful person. I’m not talking about gaining wealth, I’m talking about gaining friendships, nurturing families, and being part of a team at work, all of which make having the money worthwhile.

When I’ve got the first few videos posted, I’ll include the link here.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Writer Expectations

My book shelves
My book shelves

“Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.” ~ C. S. Lewis

“My literature is much more the result of a paradox than than of an implacable logic, typical of police novels. The paradox is the tension that exists in my soul.” ~ Paulo Coelho

“Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disenfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourses of my book friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness.” ~ Helen Keller

“Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill.” ~ Barbara Tuchman

“In my teaching, I try to expose my students to the widest range of aesthetic possibilities, so I’ll offer them stories from Anton Chekhov to Denis Johnson, from Flannery O’Connor to A.M. Homes, and perhaps investigating all that strange variation of beauty has rubbed off on me. Or perhaps that’s why I enjoy teaching literature.” ~ Change-Rae Lee

At present I’m writing a novel. I’m in the revision stages and I’m struggling with a fundamental problem for writers. A writer friend of mine said, “You’ve got to get your main character into trouble and keep her there.” I know she’s right. That’s been the rule for literature since story telling began. It’s been that way because stories imitate life. However, just recently, I’m feeling worn out by conflict.

That might not be a good thing for my writing because readers expect adventure from their books. Yet I feel drawn to create characters who learn from the things that happen to them, and who find peace in the process. My protagonists could be a new kind of character. For the most part they stay calm while helping to solve the conflict around them.

I have to say that my favorite books are ones much like that. It’s not that the protagonist doesn’t face problems, it’s their attitude in facing them that is different. Jane Eyre is one such character and many of Jane Austen’s heroines are the same. They are determined to make the best of any situation in which they find themselves. Because they look for ways to be useful and happy no matter what, good comes to them. Maybe it’s the difference between male and female writers. I’ve read lots of exciting books by male authors, books I loved, but they’re a little bit different than the books that I love by female authors. The male created protagonists struggle and push to make things happen, while the female created protagonists look for subtler ways to get what they want. I don’t mean to imply one approach is better than the other, they’re just different.

The Harry Potter series, all of Jane Austen’s books and many other books written by women seem more intimate. The Mists of Avalon and The Crystal Cave series by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Mary Stewart respectively, are completely different tellings of the Arthur myth than those written by men. What’s going on inside the characters and what they’re learning along the way is more important than the plot.

I guess I’m thinking about all of this because I’m just finishing a fantasy series that I found through BookBub. I loved the first three books, but as I began the second series, I had battle fatigue. The books are written by a man with a young woman protagonist. It’s one of those series where one person has to save the world she lives in. But there is no respite from battle at any time. No time for reflection on what she’s learned. Mostly, she just reacts with no chance to assess the situation and to use her wisdom. Another thing that bothers me about the series is that story lines are left unfinished. It’s a great adventure series but what good comes to the society at the end of it all? Admittedly, I still have a little bit more to read in the sixth book and maybe the unfinished storylines will be resolved, the main characters will have learned something and find a measure of peace. Or maybe he’s planning another series that will do that. But as a reader I’m left unsatisfied. I don’t want to write books like that.

Recently I saw links on Facebook to articles by movie and TV critics of the Outlander series. I love those books because there is a strong female protagonist who finds herself in an extraordinary situation. She doesn’t panic. She finds a way to cope with her situation and in the process, affects everyone around her, including the men. One of the things that was controversial about the book and TV series is a horrific rape scene. But it’s not the rape of Claire, the main character, but her husband. After she saves him, they have to find a way to heal. They do that together. The rape is an integral part of the development of Claire and Jamie’s relationship. It’s not there for exploitation, or because there was a hole in the plot and “so why not put a rape scene in.” When I read that section of the book, I was amazed at the courage Diana Gabaldon showed in writing it. We find ourselves in horrific or traumatic situations at one time or another in our lives. Often we ask ourselves how can we cope with the pain. Ms. Gabaldon is one among many authors who have shown us a way to heal by writing honestly about life.

To me, literature should help us go places, both inside and outside ourselves, that we have never gone before. The beauty of reading is that we go on a journey with the characters and learn from the mistakes they make or the situations in which they find themselves so we don’t have to experience them ourselves. That’s the kind of literature I want to write. I want people to have fun while getting something to take away with them and use in the future.

Writing isn’t an easy profession. Even those who’s books aren’t huge sellers, I hope their work touch someone. I hope my book touches someone too.

Thanks for reading. I hope you have a great week. Feel free to leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Stories Matter

My Favorite Books
My Favorite Books

“Whoever has learned to love new thoughts can never be threatened by them.” – Deepak Chopra

“Never apologize for being sensitive or emotional. Let this be a sign that you’ve got a big heart and aren’t afraid to let others see it. Showing your emotions is a sign of strength.” – Brigitte Nicole

“It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.” – Stephen King

Just lately I’ve been thinking a great deal about the power of literature. It’s partly because I’m working on a novel. However, I’m surrounded by story telling all the time, because I also teach theatre classes at the local community college. In each of the three classes we discuss the story arcs, character motivations, and themes of the stories. These are things I’ve always been interested in from a young age when my parents introduced me to fairy tales. The best most enduring stories are based on characters who grow while facing everyday challenges. In my opinion, what is the point of telling the story if the characters don’t learn anything?

The thing I love about literature is that we can learn something from the trials and tribulations of the characters and as a result not have to go through the same horrible situations ourselves. We can embrace the lessons as the characters make their choices and grow. What a relief. We don’t have to experience every possible challenge ourselves.

Last week I wrote about being a late bloomer and this past weekend my husband and I went to see The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel which was a delightful experience and an affirmation that growing older doesn’t mean you’re out of the game. It’s a continuation of the first movie in which a group of elderly people from England, who for one reason and another, choose to retire in India. They are attracted to ads for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, because the room rates are very reasonable. The hotel proprietor is a young idealistic young man who has a dream, but not much talent for making his dream work. So there are lots of things to adjust to for the retirees. What makes the story endearing is the way the characters from such vastly different cultures learn from each other. And they learn important things about themselves as well. One of the most profound things they learn is that they can still grow and make a contribution. My favorite exchanges from that movie is this: Evelyn says, “Nothing here has worked out quite as I expected,” to which Muriel replies, “Most things don’t. But sometimes what happens instead is the good stuff.” An affirmation that not everything that happens unexpectedly is bad.

Both movies are about ordinary people trying to make sense out of the things life throws in their path. Isn’t that what we are each faced with on a regular basis? Each day we wake up and must put one foot in front of the other in new tracks if we want to accomplish our goals. Not everyone does this for one reason or another. Some get up and put one foot in front of the other in the same old tracks and dig themselves into deeper and deeper boring, meaningless lives. But the thing I loved about the second movie was that most of the characters realized that it’s never too late to reinvent your life. My favorite quote from the second movie is spoken again by Evelyn, “How many new lives can we have? As many as we like.” I agree with her. We can climb out of the rut we’ve dug for ourselves and invent a new more meaningful life for ourselves if we have the courage to do so.

Some people might say I’m silly or crazy for not facing the real world but for me, literature helps me make sense of my life whether I’m reading the book or writing it. What some people call the real world can be a cruel place. Literature, and by extension movies and plays, helps me and millions like me find a way to wend our way toward peace. The best stories, in my opinion, point us toward triumph not destruction, even if the triumphs are small.

Thanks for reading. I appreciate your comments.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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