Good morning my non-existent audience. I have just finished reading Shadow of the Heagemon (sp?) by Orson Scott Card. The book is not terribly important to what I have to say here but I strongly recommend any lover of sci-fi and also any lover of good writing to read Ender's Game and the subsequent books. I stray. I mention this book because occasionally Card writes an essay at the end of his book that he masks as an "Afterword." They usually consist some of how and why the book was written including sources and influences (very helpful for anyone wanting to futher pursue some of the advanced concepts he deals with in his writing). However, much of this "Afterword" deals with various concepts of human nature. Do not overlook science fiction writers for they have some of the most intelliegent minds of our world.
Card's books allow me to further open my mind and educate myself in humanity on a personal level, in the ways humans interact closely with one another, with humanity as a civilization, and (do not take this lightly) humanity as a species. I will not get into any of these because this is not the purpose of my writing today, though I feel that it gives appropriate background.
Wonderfully ironic is the fact that I grasp completely different things from the book as a work of fiction and from the essay as a work of "reality". I hate to use the word reality for I feel that fiction is its own reality. Without it, the individual human mind could not share each unique version of their imagination. This would truly be a mistake as we can only fully learn about the world by interacting with others. The fact that Card's fiction is only an imaginary manifestation of "reality" is only relevant in our mind's digestion of the concepts. I have found that, due to the fact that it is indeed fiction, I can declutter my societal and personal expectations of touchy subjects such as religion and politics. This allows the reader to not only learn about new ways of thinking, but (even if only on a subconcious level) allow the reader to relate to these new thoughts in new ways. An essay or lecture, which inherently carries the title of "Truth" can cause what seems to be an automatic shut-out of the concepts (again even if only on a subconcious level) (i.e in one ear out the other) if the concepts are contrary to what the individual believes as "Truth." Fiction has the ability, since it gives an odd sense of saftey, to more deeply influence the way we percieve the world. An essay could be devoted to just this concept, but suffice it to say that, in my experience, this stems from a masterful writer's ability to create a believeable character. We therefore relate on a personal level to them even though we are well aware (though even I find myself lost in each fictional world) that they are not "real."
However, as stated earlier, essays have a unique way of teaching that can also help progress the way we believe. The fact that essays, usually, are written specifically for the use of human development (while fiction can be often coined as entertainment) allows a more direct and blunt expression of ideas. This directness is what leads people to drastic changes of ideology and therefore is a very effective means of expressing ones ideas. This directness also plays with the reader's subconcious by implanting a firm concept (dependent on the writer's ability to adequately express and the reader to comprehend) which, after a matter of minutes, may fall out of the concious mind and therefore be subjected to the yet undiscovered parts of the unconcious mind. This often reveals itself as important questions we ask ourselves that seem to sprout out of nowhere or as sudden impluses in stressful situations. The best example I can give for this is a personal one. I am a devout Christian but in no way does that limit me from reading anything and everything that draws my interest, regardless of whether the Church deems it worthy. This often leads me to reading essays which blatently deny ideas that I hold dear. While bothersome at first, I have learned by now that the more I know, the better, regardless of how it makes me feel. Such is usually the case when one leaves their comfort zone. However, soon these contradictory ideas leave my concious mind to pursue something else, yet in no way do they suddenly vanish. Then, at a later date, questions seem to arise out of nowhere which make me question parts of my belief. Interestingly enough, however, they are not always directly related to the reading which has originally implanted the contradictory idea into my mind. Thus is the mystery of the human psyche. What I have found fascinating, though, is that rarely do these questions destroy my existing beliefs. Rather, once I allow myself to grapple with both, they further flush out what I already believe into something more personally coherent.
At this point I must allow myself to take a detour. In no way am I judging my readers' open-mindedness. I myself strive every day to be as open-minded as possible for we all see the world differently and we can all learn from eachother's unique views. I am merely stating that regardless of how "open-minded" we percieve ourselves to be, we all believe what we believe. Our own society has been influencing us since birth (and science has proposed to say before birth), long before we are concious of ourselves. Therefore, our unconcious has been working and working to structure our beliefs before we even knew what beliefs were. A wonderful Antrhopology teacher I had in undergrad once said that we can never objectively study our own society due to what she termed the "pink-shaded glasses." The term basically refers to the fact that we may be able to anthropologically express our own society in some aspects, but due to our natural growth in said society, we can not see many of the unique qualities that a non-native would see. All of this is merely to say that we can always strive to be open-minded, but until we are willing to put our most natural and basic beliefs on the line, often which we are unaware of, we can never truly question our existance.
Oh the irony of my mind. This whole essay did not turn out as I planned. I wanted to focus this essay on an element of essay writing that became concrete to me after reading Card's essays. Card is very opinionated in what he writes and he rarely (unless he is attempting to comment on something which is truly far from his field of knowledge) appologizes or sugar-coats what he says. This is fascinating to me because I always had the impression that to reach the vast majority, those appologizes were necessary to keep people happy and reading. I now realize that these appologizes only serve to discredit the point that you are trying to make. I therefore am trying to be more blunt and direct without appology in my essays and I believe I have taken this idea to heart through this essay. If someone is offended by or disagrees with something I say, then go ahead and refute it. I don't ever pretend to know it all. As I stated earlier, the best way to allow our minds to expand is by our interactions with others. Therefore refute away, because even if we both disagree with eachother, I have still left my kernel of knowledge in your mind, and you have left yours in mine. In fact, if this is truly an important aspect of the way we learn from eachother, then a direct statement will more likely yeild a response and therefore begin the cycle anew.
Not that I expect many people to have the patience to read to my ramble, but I really believe that the unique and equally important aspects of fiction and essay, when understood, can allow new levels of knowledge to build. Afterall, awareness is everything.