Reading When it Hurts

Finding answers and insights through books

Sandy Hook School

Books are a great form of escape from the cares of a turbulent and coarse world. Instead of focusing on today’s often-gruesome headlines, you can instead turn your attention to the chivalrous Knights of the Round Table, looking forward in anticipation to the next dragon slaying or fair maiden rescue attempt. Happy endings are easy to ridicule for their simplistic answers to already simplistic scenarios, but from what I’ve seen in my decades of living in yet another moment of local and international turmoil, such simplicity is sometimes needed to help our brains get through trying times.

News reports of evil acts bubble quickly to the top of the news cycle, and it’s hard to process conclusions from, say, the senseless killing of more than two dozen adults and children in Connecticut. While ignoring the impact this story has on the families of those most affected by the mass-murder would be wrong, taking time to read about what might have happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away is a useful, even healthy, act to help digest what happened. There is no such thing in the real world as a Sith Lord wielding midichlorian-based power, yet the tale of young Skywalker and others like it can help us understand in new ways what happens when wickedness invades our otherwise mundane and peaceful lives.

Beyond fanciful adventure tales, nonfiction books also provide access to alternate solutions to life’s problems. From self-help works to historical accounts of nineteenth century American politics, well-researched volumes expand our toolset for dealing with complex issues. Used in this way, books become more than just cute stories or journalistic sources. Consuming such input allows our minds to make connections and resolutions using options we likely would have never come up with on our own.

At a more personal level, as I pass through my middle age years, I find myself looking back with dreamy eyes on problematic events from my past, replaying ephemera from my own life to see if minute changes or different choices would have had a dramatic Butterfly Effect on who I am today. Living in the past like this can be dangerous, and in extreme cases can lead to the purchase of sports cars or hipster clothing. Fortunately, there are books to bring relief when needed. While they don’t contain the specifics of my own story, books nonetheless allow me to play out scenarios that the author, kind heart that he is, took time to flesh out for me.

Whether it’s coming to terms with a shocking news report or grappling with the disappointments and unresolved choices from one’s own life, I recommend good books as yet another tool to work through the intellectual and emotional trauma inherent in a fallen world.



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