There’s a pandemic fluttering about on the breeze. Caused by a miasma no doubt, the toxic air of night sneaking in through our windows. Burn some incense and ward off the smells.
We aren’t back in medieval times, no, so we have better prevention methods though, it does boil down to not breathing in diseased air. Wear a mask. Keep six feet of separation between you and everyone else. And don’t touch anything. In Illinois, a State within the United States, we’re heading into month two of quarantine.
Frankly, I’m exhausted by news of the pandemic, the blunders surrounding it, and the peril of it all. It grates on the nerves and wears down the psyche. Don’t you think?
So, when faced with such a worldwide dilemma where we (and no one around us) have no semblance of control, what do we do?
Turn to a book.
Books! Of course. Our most faithful, unwavering companions come save us again. That shouldn’t be any surprise to us book lovers. What we need in this time of fear and uncertainty is a good book to fill up our hours of the day. Especially if we aren’t essential workers and suddenly find we have a little bit of extra time on our hands.
Is it just a way to fill time though?
No, sir. It is not.
Books are remarkable. They have a way of forcing us to engage the muscles of our brain. We cannot be mindless as we read since our brain is creating a delicious scene for us. The sounds, the scents, the sights, the smells…the everything is being fabricated by our brains. Sometimes, the writers needs to only nudge us in a direction before our brain takes over for us, filling in the gaps.
This feature of a good book is special during this time of quarantine. It gives us exposure to the world in a way we aren’t able to get right now. Instead of allowing our brain to create new pathways that involve separation, isolation, and depression, it’s important that we uphold the pathways we have already created by immersing ourselves in similar stimuli.
I can’t exactly ever go on a life-threatening adventure or live at a castle like Hogwarts, but the human to human interactions, the relationships between everyone, and the mayhem that follows normal human life exists there. It stimulates my brain in a way that I crave.
Looking to my late grandmother, I see someone who left the house for groceries and the occasional shopping haul. Yet, her brain never lost its clarity or its wicked sharpness and this is because she allowed herself to be lost in the worlds and stimulus of a good book. Maybe this reality wasn’t accessible to her for reasons I don’t know, but those realities were and they provided the same sorts of benefits as this one.
Of course, nothing substitutes sitting outside and enjoying the wind, sun, rain… You see where I’m heading. But burying your head in between the pages of a book is a phenomenal place to start.
Is it just an escape?
No. There’s something, to me, that is so much more important in a good novel.
A deep, soul connection to any character. It doesn’t have to be the protagonist. It doesn’t have to be the antagonist. It can be any character big or small but that connection is a form of personal reflection. When I find myself obsessing over a character (and it happens often), I can’t help but smile to myself. I have found a kindred spirit. Someone who shares a bit of my soul, who I am.
I find comfort watching a character I deeply understand struggle to overcome. This is especially true while I myself am facing something difficult. The act of bonding to a character is more intimate, more personal, than connecting with a flesh and blood person. I can easily be vulnerable with a character and their struggle, not so much with a person. It’s more difficult and doesn’t lend itself during a quarantine.
And, as a special bonus, every struggle read about has a resolution. It isn’t to say that every problem has an answer or a happy ending, just that there is closure. Knowing that every open issue in my life will, in some way, have a resolution, brings me great company.
No matter where we are in the world, this is a trying time. We may not be ill or even be in an area of high illness, but it is difficult nonetheless. Each of us are struggling in a way unique to us.
Books and the characters within them are one of our greatest weapons during this time. Let’s keep our minds happy and healthy. Let’s find friendship within the pages. And let’s have some fun. Shall we?