By Anjali Gaur
Writing and reading have been markers of civilisation for centuries. One of the most common barriers amongst us is communication or interpretation of each other’s’ feelings. It can be extremely difficult to make others ‘feel’ the way we are emotionally affected. We often fail to communicate with those in our vicinity, let alone people far away.
Reading is a transparent and direct method of communication with people who live far away from us or existed in an entirely different century altogether. Reading classics is pretty much like communicating with the dead. We use language as a tool to communicate complex thoughts and experiences, and reading is an act of empathy. This then allows us and forces us to imagine what it is like to be someone else for a brief moment. It is an escape from real life to an imaginary world which broadens our thought process and perception.
When we want to communicate our emotions after a break up, we might refer to our heart as being ‘shattered’. As a matter of fact our heart is never ‘shattered’, it continues to pump blood in precisely the same manner as before the break up. We use extended metaphors, hyperboles and other literary devices to add more meaning and depth to our communication in order to express our emotions vividly. When we are reading such descriptions of emotions we cannot see the tears but we can comprehend what the writer is trying to convey.
These are the challenges that great writers such as Shakespeare and Hemingway faced. We too face similar challenges while writing for an audience or while expressing our thoughts on a social media platform. The challenge is not just effective communication, but the efficiency of communication with a total stranger by pouring out thoughts in the form of words on a page.
Other than just communicating and empathising, if we can read critically and attentively it also provides us with the linguistic tools which enables us to become better equipped to share our own ideas. Literature helps us become more insightful and enables us to have a fresh perspective. Dr Samuel Johnson who suffered from depression said, “the only end of writing is to enable the reader better to enjoy life or better to endure it.” There are several examples of masterpieces, which were created when the writer had hit rock bottom.
One example is Harry Potter who could be used as an escape from real world into a magical world for J. K. Rowling, and The Bell Jar was more of an autobiographical catharsis for Plath. These writers needed an outlet for their creativity, and it was triggered by personal struggles. Therefore, reading and writing are both very much therapeutic, they can heal and promote mental well-being.
Anjali Gaur is a Researcher living in Pavia, Italy. She studied biomedical sciences in Australia and the UK. Her current work involves research on ‘Red Blood Cell Ageing” funded by the European Commission. Prior to this she worked in Hong Kong and Sweden, where she developed ‘Phage Display Antibodies’.
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