Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Exploding reality

I read a blog post this morning that completely exploded my construct of reality. And when I say completely, I do mean completely. And by exploded, I mean blown to kingdom come.

Referencing the new book Reality Hunger, as well as some related web conversations, Kester Brewin asks: "Is it a reality we are immersing ourselves in when we read, or a virtual space?"

If you know me at all, you know that I'm not just a reader. I'm an avid reader. A passionate reader. A voracious reader. Not an hours and hours a day reader, but life-shaped-by-the-books-I'm-reading sort of reader. I love books. I own too many of them, and usually read too many at once. To me, there are few questions in the world as interesting as "What are you reading?"

I've certainly been accused of escapism, and there's no doubt I can get overly engrossed in my reading. Sometimes books do pull me away from other priorities, and I admit, my timing still needs some work. But mostly, reading for me is simply another one of the worlds in which I engage. There's the world where I happen to be right now (that would be Grand Rapids), there's my formative childhood world (Northwestern Argentina), the world of family (spread across the U.S.), the world of challenging ideas (mostly cyberspace), and the world/s of the book/s I'm reading right now.

As a child, I moved frequently, and of necessity learned to adapt to new environments, while simultaneously keeping alive the reality of past settings. I've never had all my friends in one place. I've never, in my memory, communicated in only one language. My favorite foods, favorite restaurants, favorite people have always spanned at least two continents. So to me it just makes sense that books would become one more environment in which I could engage. It could be argued that books aren't a real environment--let's face it, it's not like I could exactly see or taste or smell what I was reading about. Not exactly, because my eyes and tongue and nose were still in a geographically tangible world. But the sensory organs that take over after the initial input--the brain connections that told me I really was seeing and tasting and smelling these things--were no less convincing. Just ask anyone in my 8th grade class who watched me read the end of "Gone with the Wind." I was right there with Scarlett O'Hara, no question about it.

Now, don't get me wrong--I never expected to find Frodo hanging out in my front yard. I was simply happy to hang out in his. I have certainly known the boundaries between worlds, which is perhaps why finishing a really good book has often been as painful for me as a teary airport farewell. But as I thought about this today, I realized that the boundaries, apparently, have not for me been clear indications of the beginning and end of "reality." They have simply been markers between two different realities.

This is just as true of non-fiction as it is of fiction. The lessons I learn, the ways I change, the things I appreciate and fear, all flow through and around my tangible world as well as the books that I read. I cannot count the times I've marveled at the ways in which books "choose me". They consistently engage me on a level that parallels other aspects of my life, very much like a friend over a cuppa who listens, draws me out, helps me think things through.

So back to the mental explosion. If books are this real to me, do I have a problem? Those boundaries I noted earlier--the ones between book world and this world--are they enough to keep me "properly" grounded? Or are gauzy purple dresses, crystals, and flighty remarks about quantum dimensions awaiting me just around the corner?

I'll let you just imagine what happens when I start thinking about reality and cyberspace.

Monday, March 1, 2010


Yesterday, out on a walk w/ my husband, I heard birds singing again. It's been months of silence--since last fall--and even still I'm worried they might be a bit ahead of themselves. But as I enjoyed the warmer weather (we're talking low 30s here!) and the hints of spring, I suddenly remebered I have a blog!
Since we moved to Michigan (over 10 years now) I've learned a great deal about myself--and one of the key lessons is that I've got more in common with the animal kingdom than I might have thought. When winter hits, all I want to do is eat and sleep. Really. "Creativity?" Gone. "Productivity?" Why? "Proactivity?" Nope. I'd really just prefer to curl up in the dark and pass out till the birds come back.
After several years of gritting my teeth and forcing my way through winter, I've decided to concede a few things to the powers of Nature. I pretty much give up on creativity during the dark months. I don't expect to accomplish anything grand. But I do expect to slow way down. If I'm lucky, I'll keep up with the basic demands of life. If I'm wise, I'll spend more time with people (who nourish me--and even at times make up for light deprivation). And if I can think clearly enough, I embrace the introspection that's guaranteed to drop in.
Then, when the birds start singing, and the sun shows itself again, and smells return to the out-of-doors, I begin to pick up where I left off in the fall. Hopefully enriched by my time of quasi-hibernation, I start edging out of my cave. Tentatively, of course--spring in these northern regions isn't a given until June, after all. But with hope, looking forward to the upcoming sunshine, and the vitality and creativity with which it infuses my life.