Empathy in Difference
Though modern culture continues to grow away from traditional mediums; replacing the journal with the phone and intimate conversation with online chat, the art of telling a story will always be a new concept. Not only does literature serve as storage for scholarly findings or political developments, it also works to express ideas and personal thoughts of the individual. As such, there is more to the book than cold facts for our own personal gain. What creative literature provides is a way into foreign living and interpretation. This is how we understand other cultures, how we empathize and relate to one another regardless of the fact we’re not the same.
In telling our personal stories, we share our individual view of the world. We inspire and shape new culture with our ideas for a better future and bring light to our unseen lifestyles. I’m not strictly talking biographies, I’m referencing the concept that within our creative works we share a bit about ourselves and how we view the inner workings of our society. Take any fiction novel, series, whatever, and find what makes that story relatable to you. In my case, Homestuck, a story about nerds who get trapped inside a game as the Earth is obliterated. Alien creatures called trolls band together with them to beat the game, and they’re able to create a new home planet for everyone to share. It’s very engaging, and the plot makes it easy to empathize with each character. How can this be? The story is fiction. The universe doesn’t exist. The characters aren’t even human. Yet I found something I could relate to. This is because the writer included a bit of their familiar world within their work, many times simply for the reason that readers would be able to follow along. No matter how hard we try, our own values and perception of life creep into our work. This is how we expose ourselves to our audience, how we let others in and help them understand our backgrounds. This goes for the conflict of our characters down to the way we write.
Everything we do is influenced in some way by culture and society. This is why fictional literature is just as telling as biographies. Just because it’s not factual, doesn’t mean it’s clean of personal experience. And this is what I’m getting at. Literature tells our story. It’s how we interact and empathize. It’s important. It’s us. It’s all we know. And we need to learn from other people. We need to become aware of foreign cultures, and different ways of thinking, and how to improve as one big family, and just how to get along. We can do all these things by reading and writing creative works. And the concepts within the works will always be relative to modern concepts. This is how literature stays current, how it stays alive amongst the frequent turnover of technology. Like paper and pen. What happened to that? Now it’s all typing. But who cares, that’s not what I’m talking about.
So what about me? Let’s change the subject for a minute. I consider myself to be a fiction writer. I spill beans about myself and my culture with every word on the page. This is how I input my experience, this is how I express my background. What do I write about? Little things like culture, love, and people. That’s what I’m passionate about. I like to write about embracing our differences, and sharing our views of the world, and finding hope. I was raised to believe these things, so my writing reflects it. Just how someone who was raised in a poor environment, and longs for more money, might write about finding success and how their characters struggle with their financial background. Or maybe they’ll write about rich people who don’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from. It’s all relative to how we’re raised, where we come from, what we believe.
I’m thinking once we read a variety of works by a variety of people, we’ll start to understand one another, and even though we may not agree, we’ll grow closer as human beings and learn to accept those who differ from us. That’s what it’s all about. With the current topics in creative works like gender, sexuality, politics, all that stuff that makes up who we are as individuals, it remains in public interest. This is one art form that will never die. It’s just too much of an outlet for people. Humans are going to tell stories, it’s what they do. And hopefully those stories will open our eyes to each other. And I don’t know, maybe we’ll let live.
By: Stephanie van Schijndel