The Nourishing Power of Literature

Remember how one of the things I was working on this summer was reconnecting with my creativity, and reading more for personal edification (rather than academic)? Well, this is a multifaceted adventure, with a variety of paths I plan to take. But I did end up in the library yesterday. Accidentally. And as I stumbled into a non-history-and-philology-related section (hm, had nearly forgotten those exist…), my whole world fell down, cracked, and opened to me once again.

We went on a walk without an intended destination. But the intrigue drew me to veer left; I simply couldn’t fight it any longer. The pull of old, worn books could ruin me one day — I lose all focus, wandering for literally hours at a time, sitting down in the middle of an aisle to peruse my latest treasure, running my fingers over the cold, musty pages with a deep and strange reverence. I feel like I am on sacred ground each time I enter a library; I step lightly, wide-eyed, touching every shelf’s hardcover spines with affection and wonder… All the while smiling like a fool.

Words and tales – and I am not ashamed to say it — have always been my dearest friends. Poems, prose, novels, dictionaries, even — these are my best teachers, empathizers, and enemies. Literature, very often, confronts and opposes us. It demands that we not look away, that we see the world from a different experience, that we become uncomfortable with the “us” we see traced throughout the story. It paints an accurate portrait of our worst (and best) selves. It highlights the disparity between these two identities we hold. It cultivates growth.

Certainly, then, you can understand why I am so eager to very purposefully set aside time each day to nourish myself through reading (and not a purely academic work, for once). When I look back on the poets, artists, and other distanced mentors who have shaped me, and how profound these changes have been, I set my excuses aside. I realize that there is no time like the present to prioritize this — this need to explore again the art that can sink into my being, and bring to fruition good things I never knew were sown within as seedlings. Literature gives me hope for myself, and humanity. It opens me to the hurt of those otherwise unknown to me. It sloughs off the callus of my jaded negativity and presumption. It points me toward the person I so achingly long to be. It calls me to keep working for that dream, with the weight of understanding with humility that I am incapable of fulfilling this ambition on my own. It is both inspiring, and humbling.

And don’t we need both in our life? Don’t we need to be keenly aware of our potential, and our error, to become more flourishing persons? I know that I do. So here is my first step. Consistency. Picking up a text at random is all fine and well, but I have found that for myself, some etching out of my day for only this endeavor is the most beneficial. Imagination is, interestingly enough, what grounds us in an acute awareness of reality. And I need that awakening.

I’m off to go fall madly in love with some ink, and all the humanity behind it. Here’s a selection from “Poetry,” by Marianne Moore, to get things rolling…

I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond
all this fiddle.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
discovers in
it after all, a place for the genuine.
Hands that can grasp, eyes
that can dilate, hair that can rise
if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because
they are

How has literature changed you? Do you wish you read more often?

What are you reading now?

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I’m a writer, new mom and foodie. I love sharing what I know while making others feel beautiful. On this blog, I share my healthy lifestyle, simple meals, fitness tips and experiences.

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Kara Bout It