Books (and pets) — binding up wounds

books broken heartDear Reader. Maybe it's about time for this post. Like you, I bet, I've been distressed — no, horrified — by the divisiveness and ugliness pervading 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 grow our 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.

winston blog4Stepping away from books, let's talk about something more PRIMAL that helps us overcome our differences.

If you haven't already guessed from the photo to the left—it's our pets.

While visiting my daughter, I enjoy spending time at an off-leash dog park. Not only is there a wide variety of dogs, but their owners are a fairly diverse group as well.

Yet the moment
one of our dogs turns aggressive, we're quick to apologize and rein in the bad behavior. What's surprising is that the other dog owners are equally quick to accept the apology. I've seen this dozens of times. Animals, it seems—like books—tap into a deep well of GRACIOUSNESS within us.

One of those times, the political chatter one had been particularly caustic. (When hasn't it?) 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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