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. We have BOOKS. Novels, especially, are sources of refuge — with the power to heal, to bind wounds and the wounded.

Through book clubs—with our books—we come together to share the love of story. We visit different cultures and are exposed to different ideas. We learn empathy. We locate ourselves, for a time, in a wider world. We understand — because we are well 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. Yes, shamefully, I've indulged in vitriol.

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 books 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, I 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. Animals, like books, tap into some deep well of EMPATHY within us.

Political chatter that week had been particularly casutic. (What week hasn't it been?) So it was of note that, as we sat 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 to this blog post: Get a pet and read a book. Let's make the world a better place. End of sermon.

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