When I was at secondary school our chemistry teacher, in setting homework, would tell the class to “read, mark, learn and inwardly digest” the set chapter. In the context of lessons towards A-levels the instructions were to be taken literally. The whole point was to learn facts and figures, theories and conventions. That’s what conventional education is all about: filling us with information that we can use to pass exams or otherwise regurgitate. And that’s why we read non-fiction: to gain information, to help us understand how something works, or why it is the way it is.
By total contrast, one reads fiction to be entertained, to take one’s mind out of reality into a fictional world of fictional people, with not a fact in sight.
Oh, what a dualistic world we live in!
In the context of conscious evolution, I’ve found that reading takes on a different role. To begin with, whatever the genre of book, the genre is irrelevant: all too often I’ve found that the so-called facts often have a decidedly fictional nature to them. One author’s theory of X, Y or Z is just that: their theory, their perspective. I’ve learnt to take it in as no more than ‘one perspective amongst many’. Having developed the art of rapid reading whilst undertaking my PhD, I think this approach essential in ‘reading’ non-fiction. Scanning the chapter headings, intro, conclusions and index, for example, provide the context, the feel of the text. I’ll then allow my intuition (or chance if you prefer) to guide me to a few pages or chapter or two: the ones that are most pertinent to me at the time I’m reading them. The chances are that I don’t need to read the whole book, because most of the details are irrelevant to my here and now. But there will be a few sentences or paragraphs, perhaps no more than that amongst hundreds of pages, that will provide just the insight or alternative perspective, or reassuring confirmation, that I need at the moment.
Remember, that, in the context of conscious evolution, the only truth that matters is the one about the present. There is no preconceived truth about life that can be put into words: so, it is futile trying to learn by reading ‘key texts’.
I do still read fiction in the conventional way: word for word, front to back. They are, after all, stories. And stories to have any meaning, having beginnings, middles and ends. And good authors will only have put in detailed descriptions that are relevant to that story, if only as context. In conscious evolution terms, context is vital: it helps us glean not just the plot but the deeper message; to tune-into the made-up world into which we are being immersed. Immersion: that’s a good conscious evolution intent!
From this place of total engagement with the people and places of a fictional world I often find wonderful insights into life: of the way humanity works or doesn’t work, for example. I never take other-worldly creatures or mystical beings literally: might they, rather, offer insights into the potential for our species, or warn us about where we’re going wrong? Presumably such inner, deeper, messages are why the story was written in the first place!
Thus, to me, all fiction has an educational value. As I’m being entertained so I’m also having my mind stretched. Not filled with ‘facts’ but offered new possibilities, opened to the unlimited potential of the great unmanifest that is life. And we all know that much of what came to life as fiction eventually becomes fact: space travel, for example.
So, I get rather sad when those who read or watch fiction take it in only as fiction. I guess conventional brains are so compartmentalised into fact and fiction that the imaginative ideas that could blow open the factual boxes of the mind, are shoehorned into the ‘fictional’ memory banks. In terms of ideas about what’s possible for human evolution, I’ve found as much, if not more, illuminating ideas from works of fiction as I have from non-fiction. Maybe you have too?
This blog is by way of introducing a new strand of post to Conscious Evolution Today. In our review category we’ll be sharing with you on experiences of books, film, web-sites (etc.) that have inspired us. Works from across genres and media-types that we’ve found useful to our conscious evolution. That isn’t to say that they’ll have the same effect on you. Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the impact of a given piece of writing or sequence of video on one person will depends at least as much on where that person (you!) is at in your life as it depends on what words and images you’re viewing . . .
About the image: In 1973 it was definitely ‘Keith the nerd’ and books were read, marked, learnt and inwardly digested. And fiction was read as just that: disconnected from reality. I’m pleased to see how much I’ve evolved since then!