Saturday, March 07, 2015

Valuing Nonfiction

Lately, I've found my mind overly preoccupied with my job as a teacher. That's not hard to do. It's one of those jobs you don't leave behind when you walk out the door at the end of the day. But sometimes, I'm practically an addict about it, my brain obsessively revisiting the well of conundrums, puzzles, reminders and other assorted mental engagements connected to my class, my students, my teaching goals, my responsibilities.

Normally, fiction - my own or someone else's - would be my escape of choice. Spending time on my own writing helps my mind shift gears, a healthy palate cleanser, as the mental engagement of creating story is strong enough to muscle-out the other preoccupations. Likewise, losing myself in another writer's work can transport me from the thousand-and-one worries and to-do-lists that prey upon my mind.

This week, however, it's been nonfiction. I often think of nonfiction as a means of educating myself, staying informed - something your doctor might tell you to do, like eating kale because it's good for you. But lately, I've developed a new view. Nonfiction can bring me outside myself, providing a welcome dose of perspective, reminding me of the big picture, the world beyond my own gray matter. It's mental fresh air. The camera of my mind pans out from its default position of introverted close-ups to take in the wider sweep of reality and humanity in a way that fiction cannot, since the world of a fictional narrative ultimately exists only in my own mind. Nonfiction, with its inherent link to the real lives and minds of other people outside myself, can be an antidote to self-absorption, reminding me that I am not, in fact, an island, but rather a part of the great continent of humanity.

Popular Posts