The Healing Power of Narrative

I’ve been going through a difficult time in my personal life lately. To keep myself on an upward path, I’ve been doing everything one is supposed to do: work out, spend time with friends, get enough sleep, find distractions (fortunately, I like my work).

A few months ago, I made a resolution to add one more item to

Thanks, Johannes.

Thanks, Johannes.

the list: read long-form fiction or nonfiction every morning. Over my coffee, I have been curled up on the couch or relaxed at the kitchen table with my Nook. No headlines. Instead, I’ve been dipping in and out of Middlemarch, The Gutenberg Elegies, The Things They Carried, Truman Capote – and occasionally, The Wilson Quarterly, my favorite journal.

I like yoga, but reading centers me more. Not just any reading, however: reading of pieces with multiple themes, woven together, and a point. Narrative, in short. Nonfiction or fiction, I like them both.

I believe (I’m borrowing from the many writers who are considering the impact of technology on our brains) that focusing on long-form writing helps relieve the mind of the stress induced by multi-tasking and Internet-surfing – and, in my case, the crazy burdens of a being a working, single mom.

Here’s a lovely passage from The Gutenberg Elegies:

I believe what distinguishes us as a species is not our technological prowess, but rather our extraordinary ability to confer meaning on our experience and to search for clues about our purpose from the world around us. I believe, too, that meaning of this kind — call it existential meaning — has from the beginning been the product of our other great distinguishing aptitude: the ability to communicate symbolically through language. Indeed, language is the soil, the seedbed, of meaning.

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