So my friend walks into my office today with a book I loaned him four months ago.
Wait, let me back this story up a little bit.
Sometime in March, Scott loaned me a book. Not a super-unusual occurrence. And then the next day we had a conversation about something, which I'm thinking was an esoteric discussion of sex and the underestimated ways it alters relationships and the way Freud and Jung and all them deal with the energetics and more mystical ideas about sex. Again, not an uncommon occurrence. Scott and I have had this very conversation in varying degrees of depth before, and, let's face it, Scott and I are big into discussing esoterica. And because of the recent book loaning, I was like, "Ooh!! You have GOT to read this book I have. You'll love it."
And so the next day, I come into work with Paulo Coelho's Eleven Minutes, which I'd stumbled across in a bookstore in Maui and had led to this flurry of new-favorite-author endearment and reading of multiple Coelho books. I love this book, and pretty much everything else of his that I've read. So Scott comes into my office at the end of the day and I, all excited, present him with this book.
He looks at it for a moment. And then he hands it back to me and says, "Yeah, I don't read fiction."
I was taken a little bit aback. "You.....you what now?"
"I don't read fiction."
"You read every piece of mythology and mysticism you can get you hands on," I say slowly, "but you categorically deny FICTION?"
"Right," he says. "I don't read fiction."
I, of course, said, right, okay, whatever, but in truth, I did not take this well. And so he leaves my office and I'm sitting there thinking, doesn't read fiction. What the hell is that? Who doesn't read an entire category like "fiction"? What the hell is wrong with Scott?! Jeebus... And, of course, somehow decided this was a personal affront and that was the world's LAMEST EXCUSE for not wanting to read my contemporarily favorite book.
And I stewed a little more, and then I realized how bloody well pissed off I was. And so I marched down to his office, threw the book at him, and said something to the effect of, "Who the hell doesn't read fiction? READ THE DAMN BOOK." He argued, but he took the book.
Then, this past Monday night, I get a text message from him that he's 100 pages into the book and befuddled about something.
So today, he brings the book back to me, and we're talking briefly about it, and he says, "you know, I wish Coelho had just talked about his philosophies and skipped the story."
I looked at him and realized, this made my heart a little sad.
Because to me, all of life is about the narrative. It's about the stories we create, the ebb and flow of events, the cascading of life's nuances. So much is connected to the narrative, and it's fascinating to me to watch how people's narratives crash into one another, tangle and tussle and are forever altered. We spin our threads and then weave our lives together in ways that must even awe the Fates (who were, of course, the women at the cosmic spinning wheels in Greek mythology). It's remarkable, it's infinite in its reach, and it's never, ever simple.
And in the telling of the story - the language, the arrangement, the allegory - there is often so much more to be learned about the author than about the sequence of events themselves. This is part of what I love about doing psychotherapy. I have an awareness about how my brain works, that it often thinks in analogy and metaphor, but the fact is - that's not particularly special. Everyone does this, whether they're aware of it or not. We all construct our stories in ways that relate to those things we know; we tie things together, we make connections. The depth and complexity of those analogies vary, and often, it's not the conscious mind that's making these connections so generally only a small portion of these analogies sees the light of conscious awareness. But the removed (i.e., non-defended) and trained ear can hear the soft bubbling of the subconscious beneath the torrent of details. It can see the significance of the order of events in the retelling, know the influence of the past and future, recognize the cacophony of defenses trying to drown out the siren song of the shadow self. It acquaints itself with the ambivalence of life, the veracity in every lie and the perjury of truth.
So often, though, this requires listening with one's own subconscious, and that is a tricky proposition, because we're trained to cling to our words as mere words and not as symbols and analogies. So it comes out as affect, or imagery; it stirs the listener's own metaphors and associations. Which creates, then, its own, new, narrative.
And the web expands.
Seriously. It does not get cooler than that.