Growing up in North Burnaby, I would go to the McGill library every week with my mom and, like her, I would borrow a dozen books at a time. The library was a door to another dimension – a greater universe.
Each book – fiction or nonfiction – was a window to another world of knowledge and experience. In great fiction, I would assume the perspectives of the characters and see different worlds through the lenses of others’ eyes.
I didn’t realize it at the time but what I learned in reading widely and voraciously enriched the networking of ideas in my own mind. Over time, this helped me see connections, patterns and analogies in my personal life and in the greater world.
Concepts in one field of knowledge could be applied to other quite disparate fields. For example, some of the concepts in the business classic From Good to Great would prove relevant in guiding a young person in finding their personal, spiritual or vocational calling.
The principles and techniques of mindfulness meditation, most closely associated with Buddhism, have practical relevance to human psychology and medicine. They are now recognized as beneficial in mainstream medicine.
Immersion in the great works of fiction not only gave me a taste of other places, eras and cultures but also new perspectives on my own life. I wasn’t just being entertained and learning facts. I was learning cognitive and emotional flexibility. I was discovering how to look at my world from multiple angles. I was also learning empathy.
Next: How childhood reading influences life today.