“It’s hard to change people’s minds with information and rational arguments. I think what really changes people are experiences,” says Ben Fountain in an interview about his new book, Beautiful Country Burn Again. This struck me specially because recently, when I gave a reading, a local man who is fond of bragging to me that he never reads fiction came up and said, “I read the Narnia books when I was a child, but now I read for information. Do you read fiction?” I said, "Yes." I half wish I had thought to say, “Eustace Clarence Scrubb must have been your favorite character,” but what I really wish I could have thought to say was, "Yes, because vicarious experience informs the heart."
Fiction matters, poetry and music matter, drama and dance matter, representational painting and abstract sculpture matter—all the arts matter because the world is a better place the more we expand our hearts and minds. Obviously, direct experience is indispensable for life; but for the enlargement of our own lives, so is the vicarious experience of inhabiting for a while someone else’s psyche. Art is a powerful way to extend ourselves whether we are writing or reading, singing or listening, fashioning an image or gazing at one.
So get out there and practice your art, relish other people’s work, and may whatever powers there be help us through this dark time!
Also VOTE on Tuesday. Perhaps the times will be a little less dark if we all do.