Books — binding up wounds

books broken heartDear Reader. Maybe it's about time for this post. Like you, I'm sure, I've been distressed — no, horrified — by the divisiveness and incivility that pervades our public discourse.

We've turned against one another: liberals and conservatives, globalists and populists, blacks and whites, men and women, religious and nonreligious, elites and … well, pretty much everyone else.

But here's the good news. I see LITERATURE as a place of refuge — and this site is all about READING and BOOKS. Literature has the power to heal, to bind wounds and the wounded.

As readers, we come together through our love of story. We visit different cultures, are exposed to different ideas. We learn empathy. We locate ourselves, for a time, in a wider world. We understand — because we read — that change is inevitable. But we also understand that there are lasting values which must be protected, always.

Those "lasting values," though, can get us into trouble; how we define them differs, which makes them easy to politicize. You could say the idea of values is what divides us.

But there ARE lasting values, ones we can all agree on. First and foremost is KINDNESS, and we can find it in literature. Many of our favorite books are those in which kindness is found in unexpected places, in which an open, generous spirit prevails over cruelty and selfishness, anger and fear.

A second is belief in the DIGNITY of every individual. That's a hard one. It's much easier to play the lowest card in the deck and resort to name-calling — I know, I've done it. Yet literature is rife with the acknowledgement of human worth — that individuals, no matter how vile or how degraded, possess an inner core of dignity.

petsBut let me step away from the world of literature for now, because there's something else, more primal, that helps humans overcome our differences. And if you haven't already guessed from the photo — it's our pets.

Not all that long ago, while visiting my daughter, we spent part of a morning at an off-leash dog park. Not only was there a wide variety of dogs, but their owners were a fairly diverse group as well. And yet, as we all sat watching the dogs, we chatted and laughed as if we were the best of friends.

Political chatter that week had been particularly vitrolic. (What week hasn't it been?) So it was of note to me that sitting there watching our 4-legged creatures, we 2-legged ones were exhibiting the best of ourselves. I wanted to hold onto that and carry it with me.

Moral: Get a pet and read a book. Let's make the world a better place. End of sermon.

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