How Reading Literature Can Help You Understand Your True Self – A 3 Step Process to Gain Wisdom from the Classics

  A reader once asked me, how do I understand my true self? I said that based on my personal experience, you can train yourself in three steps: 1. Stay away from yourself and forget yourself; 2. Pay attention to others and understand others; 3. Understand yourself as you understand others.
  In this process, I always think that reading literary works is a good training method. I am not referring to popular novels here. Popular novels mostly tell stories to readers. Whether they are detective novels, romance novels, horror novels, etc., their purpose is clear. Whether they cry or laugh, they are based on The purpose is to entertain readers and does not force readers to understand and think. Such works are very friendly and will not cause problems or embarrass readers. But this is often not the case with literary works, especially those great literary works. They can endure for a long time because there are always people in this world who need their existence.
  I still remember the first time I read Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary”. At that time, I was only fourteen or fifteen years old, and I particularly hated the heroine Emma in the book. I was very angry inside and couldn’t understand why a woman who was so vain, self-righteous and unchaste could become the heroine in a classic that has been immortalized for generations. But when I reached the age of 30 and reread this book, when I read about Emma’s death, I burst into tears like Flaubert.
  The novel is still the same novel, Emma is still the same Emma, ​​and I have changed. As I get older, I have more experiences and my understanding of other people and the world has improved. This is the charm of the master’s works. They are rich and profound enough, waiting for us to meet them again when we grow up. I didn’t understand the author’s good intentions before, but now I understand. This kind of reading experience also allows me to read those novels with a more relaxed attitude, without holding any opinions, and without being eager to judge and criticize.
  Some people say that literature is useless, but I don’t think so. If it was really useless, it would have died naturally long ago, and there wouldn’t be so many people still reading it. From a secular perspective, I have always believed that one of the great benefits of reading literary works is that it can help people improve their emotional intelligence. Many people may not believe this and have no such patience. If you want to improve your emotional intelligence, why not just read Carnegie instead of spending time reading the troublesome works of Tolstoy and reading “Madame Bovary”? Moreover, those classic literary masterpieces sometimes seem to be really unfriendly to readers, because the author himself has never regarded pleasing readers as the purpose of writing, but instead packages and throws questions about human nature in front of readers, allowing readers to To analyze and understand.
  But you have to know that human nature is more complex than we imagine – in addition to the bright and visible side, there is often an ambiguous and dark side, which is also affected by factors such as time and education. Under such various forces, in fact, few people’s human nature will be as listed in Carnegie’s book, with labels divided into categories and clearly presented before your eyes. You can only go through the layers of fog and figure out for yourself what happened, why this person made such a decision, and that person behaved that way.
  I always practice my understanding of the world in novels, which is an important reason why I like reading novels. It allows me to constantly learn about human nature, remain curious about the world, and like it more and more. From this perspective, I think the three steps to understand yourself I mentioned before can all be achieved through reading novels.
  Literary works do not impart knowledge in books, so many people conclude that “novel is useless.” But novels are not used to increase knowledge, but to increase wisdom. Wisdom in this world does not grow naturally as long as knowledge is obtained. Otherwise, how come there are so many people who have mastered so much knowledge and read so many books, but still know nothing about human nature, cannot communicate well, and cannot accomplish anything? In addition to reading novels, of course I will also read some theoretical books on psychology, history, aesthetics, sociology and anthropology, but in the end I always read novels – I find that I can use other knowledge I have acquired through reading in It is a particularly interesting thing to understand the novel.
  Novelists are not responsible for establishing “three views” for us, nor are they responsible for imparting knowledge to us, but they provide us with classic cases of human nature, allowing us to analyze and understand by ourselves, and find answers in our own way. . What the novel gives us is not just a few hours of pleasure.
  People who read novels may not necessarily be writers or artists, but many people with high emotional intelligence in the world read literary works. Discussing the meaning of reading novels from this perspective is inevitably a bit secular and utilitarian. However, I sincerely hope that the value of those great literary works can be discovered by more people. After all, these human treasures are easily accessible in our lives. , but they are often ignored. It is a pity not to know their beauty.
  What can you get from the literary world of Tolstoy and Shakespeare? I can’t say. To use an analogy, it’s like the old American western story. If you are given a horse, you can run wildly. You can gallop wherever you go. As for how far you can run, it depends on you.