Learning from Fiction... (Alternate title: I Finally Read Harry Potter)
I always had a hard time with the point of reading fiction. It seemed useless. I mean, really, if you are going to spend hours getting through a book, you might as well have some knowledge to show for it.
I have, in the past, made a foray here and there into fiction, but it never really stuck. I even wrote a post a while back about how a fiction book taught me something. But that was a toe in the water; the baptism just happened recently.
After years of nagging from my wife, months from my sister-in-law, and many many comments from friends and acquaintences over the years, I decided to give the Harry Potter books a try.
I honestly looked down upon those people who got really into them. I thought the subject matter was a tad beyond the border of odd. I never once thought I might enjoy it. But I gave them a shot. Especially after seeing this:
(I mean, if Tim Keller says they’re good, they’ve got to be good.)
I finished the books the very beginning of this year.
Since then, I’ve read mostly fiction. Now, I don’t think that will continue at the same rate. I don’t expect to end the year having read more fiction than non. But through C. S. Lewis (1), and now Rowling, I’ve truly learned the power of fiction.
With the Harry Potter series, it brilliantly displayed how powerful a good story is — how much it can draw you in. I was attached to it in a way I haven’t been with a book before. As they say, I couldn’t put it down. Not only that, but the book, because it drew me in, gave me experience rather than mere knowledge.
That’s the trouble with non-fiction. You can tell someone something, but mere acquisition of a fact is not true knowledge of it. With a story, like the Harry Potter books, you get so drawn in you don’t just read and comprehend it, but you take part in it. You encounter it with the characters. You feel the loss of the characters, and you feel the triumphs.
With that, you feel the evilness of the evil; you feel the goodness of the good. The power in the series is that it doesn’t just tell you about good and evil, it allows you to experience them.
In this case, though the story is about the power of love, it doesn’t just tell you about it. It surrounds you with the desire to seek pride and power, but ultimately displays true, self-sacrificing love and its defeat over darkness.
That’s not something you can get from a philosophical book about good and evil. Although that kind of book is necessary, you have to have more than mere knowledge. Fiction gives you more.
In a sense, I was right. You don’t learn as much reading fiction. What happens in fiction is you learn more deeply.
- I recently read C. S. Lewis’ “Space Trilogy.” It’s fantastic, and I’ll probably write about it at some point.