I recently read on Twitter that a school district in the States has banned the book, To Kill a Mockingbird, from its reading list because it “makes people uncomfortable”.
Of course this issue has been intensely debated on Twitter, with those being highly supportive to those being vehemently against the book being banned
While I personally question banning the book, one of my greatest regrets is that people are so concerned about reading a book simply because it makes them uncomfortable.
I grieve that people may refuse to read a book, a newspaper article, a blog post because it might push them out of the familiar and the comfortable. And into fresh and innovative ways of thinking and feeling.
Being afraid to accept the beautiful invitations to learn more about diverse cultures, races, time periods, or life experiences.
Being anxious about the risk of walking in someone else’s shoes, or sharing in a distinctive experience, or of sitting in an unfamiliar space.
That they miss experiencing the unique beauty that can be found within each individual’s story.
For there is a richness to be found in walking alongside a character. And this is true whether their story is exhilarating and joy-filled, or hard and grueling or demanding. Because it all encourages us to participate and to learn.
For it invites us to celebrate in a character’s joys, grieve with him or her in their trials, and losses, and learn from them as they face trials and overcome challenges.
And although it may force us to step out of our comfort zones, and into the pages of a book and the life of a character, it is in this unsettling, that our hearts and minds and souls are opened and stretched.
For it is exactly in these moments, where assumptions and perspectives and opinions are challenged, that we gather insights in understanding and sensitivity and compassion.
Transformation becomes possible the moment we begin to consider things through a different lens and from alternatives and angles.
My parents were voracious readers. Books were everywhere around our home, and they were always reading at least one book at any one time. They loved everything from great literature to historical to political to self-help books.
But not only did they love to read books, they valued books that challenged them to think and learn something new. And they also enjoyed discussing and debating whatever they had been reading. As children, we were drawn into these discussions as we sat around the dinner table.
My father in particular loved a deep and thoughtful and lively discussion. So much so, he would start by listening carefully to what others had to say, and then he would weigh in with the opposite viewpoint. Just so he could stir up a spirited discussion. So if someone said they enjoyed the book, he would say he didn’t. If someone said the main character was admirable, he would disagree.
And he always insisted that we justify our opinions with reasoned argument and sound thinking.
He taught me that being challenged by something that makes us feel uncomfortable or that unsettles us, is not something to fear, but rather it is something to be embraced.
For this is the fertile ground where perceptions and assumptions are stretched and shifted. Harvesting new ways to see and experience the world.
So when we sanitize what we read, eliminating books and articles that might make us uncomfortable, we also loose the opportunity to grow in wisdom and compassion.
My father would be wildly delighted that we have continued to engage in his passion for reading and animated discussions. That we too have passed this love onto our children.
And that we are now watching our children, as they begin to share it with their children, his great-grandchildren.
I am both thrilled, and grateful. For reading is a fertile soil, which has the potential to cultivate positive transformation and depth within us.
For an index of all my posts in the series, please click here.
Photo credits: Syd Wachs, from Unsplash