Saturday, April 14, 2012

My Brain on Fiction

My entire life (well as long as I have been able to read) I have loved reading fiction. When I was a child I would bicycle the mile to our library, take out the allowed four books, trek back home and read. Four days later, I’d ride back to the library for four more books. I was always frustrated that they would only let me take four books out at a time.

With three younger siblings, it was difficult to read without being interrupted. Eventually I nailed boards into the side of a tree that was right next to our garage and would climb up the tree to sit on the roof of the garage under the canopy of the tree and read in peace. I could even pretend that I didn’t hear my mother calling me in :). 
During my grade school years, I would read about a book a day. During my later elementary years, my favorite books were the Trixie Belden mysteries. I actually saved my money to purchase these books for myself... the beginnings of my extensive fiction library. I only really read the first six books in the series, written by Julie Campbell. I never really liked the books by the next author. I also enjoyed the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy mysteries but my favorite character by far for several years was Trixie Belden. As an adult I have enjoyed science fiction, mysteries and mostly romance. There is enough stress in real life and I prefer that my reading be removed from real life... thus I prefer happy endings with minimum of stress. My favorite mysteries are the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries by Dorothy Sayers. My favorite science fiction series is the Dragonriders of Pern by Anne Mccaffrey. I have a complete collection of D.E. Stevenson books in hardback... some first editions... which I have collected over many years through 
I have several favorite romance writers: Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Julia Quinn, Trisha Ashley, Katie Fforde and Georgette Heyer . My favorite classic books are those written by Jane Austen. I read others, of course, but those are the favorites that I return to time and again.
I was extremely interested to recently read an article in the New York Times about how our brains respond to fiction. I have always enjoyed immersing myself in the world of the fiction book. Reacting to the characters and feeling about the characters as if they were real people. I’ve already talked about how I am an introvert and really don’t have any close friends at this point. What I do have, is friends in books and on blogs.

My reading has always provided me with a rich heritage of good friends. Now, I know that these good friends, particularly those in books, can’t listen to me ... but frankly, most of the friends I do have spend all their time with me talking to me. There’s very little listening (their listening) going on.

Anyway, I find the following quote very interesting:

The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated. Keith Oatley, an emeritus professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto (and a published novelist), has proposed that reading produces a vivid simulation of reality, one that “runs on minds of readers just as computer simulations run on computers.” Fiction — with its redolent details, imaginative metaphors and attentive descriptions of people and their actions — offers an especially rich replica. Indeed, in one respect novels go beyond simulating reality to give readers an experience unavailable off the page: the opportunity to enter fully into other people’s thoughts and feelings.
The novel, of course, is an unequaled medium for the exploration of human social and emotional life. And there is evidence that just as the brain responds to depictions of smells and textures and movements as if they were the real thing, so it treats the interactions among fictional characters as something like real-life social encounters.

This kind of confirms my life experience. Fictional situations, worlds and words are a simulation of reality.  Now I don’t have to feel so bad about my obsession with fiction worlds. I can just sit back and enjoy my interactions with the characters and situations that others have created.

Thanks authors for populating my imagination with vivid characters.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Taking Care of (Old) Business

I’ve been busy taking care of old business.

In 1974 when I divorced my husband, I asked to have my maiden name restored to me as my legal name. I changed my name everywhere: driver’s license, work, post office, passport. But I postponed changing my name with the Social Security Administration. At the time I was working in our family business and as I continued to work there until I retired in 2007, I didn’t need a accurate Social Security card.

With 65 coming up quickly, I decided that I’d better get around to changing my name. I don’t think Medicare will work with the wrong name on my card. I glibly flew into the Social Security office with driver’s license, tax forms, W-2s, passport. These were not good enough for Social Security. It seems I needed my divorce decree. Now some people are great with paper. Me not so much. In the intervening 38 years since my divorce I’ve moved six times and managed to lose those precious papers.

So I called the county offices in California where I was divorced and found out what I needed to do. Sent the blank check (open ended for fees) and a letter asking for a certified copy of my divorce. This came promptly, thank you very much.

Unfortunately, this was just one page saying the the interlocutory judgment given six months earlier was now in effect. There was nothing on the official divorce decree about my name change. So I sent off another letter and another blank check asking for a certified copy of the the interlocutory judgment. This came yesterday.

So I trudged off today to the Social Security office, patiently waited my turn, (amazingly I had less than a five minute wait) and finally, 38 years later, I have an accurate Social Security card.

Next stop... Medicare. Kate

Monday, April 2, 2012

Matthew Vines

I ran across a video from Matthew Vines on several different sites last week and I listened to the full 1.07 hour video. If you are a Christian and you care about what the Bible has to say about homosexuality, I encourage you to take the time to view the entire video... which I have posted below. (I haven't figured out how to embed it into this post).

Matthew’s column in the Huffington Post is also worth a read. He says, in part:

"I love God. I also happen to be gay. In a better world, this would be no more interesting or noteworthy to people than loving God and happening to love, say, cheesecake. But of course, we all know that that isn't the world we live in. And for some reason, a lot of people have a big problem with anyone who believes in God and is gay. As someone who grew up in a conservative Christian church in Kansas, I am all too aware of the problem of religious homophobia.
So when reality won out during my sophomore year of college and I finally had to admit to myself that I was gay, I was both relieved and crushed -- relieved because everything that hadn't made sense about my life finally did, and because love no longer seemed like an impossibility for me, but crushed because of the likelihood that I would be rejected and lose the community I had always called home."

Matthew’s comments are really thoughtful and sincere. I’m not sure I yet agree with him on his Romans 1:26-27 interpretation, but basically his views and interpretations are really well thought out and articulated with gentleness and respect. The video is an ideal link to share with parents and friends of LGBTQ Christians who are dealing with the intersection of the Christian faith and the LGBTQ community... or with people who are willing to explore what the Bible actually says about homosexuality.

Further background can be found on Kathy Baldock’s Canyonwalker Connections website. In her post she said,

“You cannot help but hear the scholarship with which he addresses the subject. Matthew not only educates the listener, he does so in a humble tone that will subtly cross even the most firmly constructed boundaries. His presentation is an excellent tool for the millions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians that have left the faith or are hiding out. To many, the task of “proving” God loves them seems so daunting.”

Please, if you care at all about the intersection of Christian faith and loving the LGBTQ community, spend the time to watch this video. It will be time well spent.

Blessings, Kate.

The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality