The third, and final, reason to read is for perspective. We have discussed reading for pleasure and for education. Perspective, is, however, a broad category. Our discussion of perspective will be broken into multiple parts.
What is perspective?
Perspective is concerned with three things: (1) your own thoughts; (2) how you view another’s thoughts; (3) how you view the way two or more sets of ideas interact.
At its heart, perspective is how the world appears. Your background, experience, knowledge, and wisdom influence perspective.
How do reading and perspective intersect?
Reading is available as an exercise to gain knowledge, test your perspective, reexamine it for necessary revisions, and deploy a new perspective to solve problems or simply get more enjoyment out of life.
Reading also informs how you view another person’s perspective. Is their perspective based on knowledge or ignorance? Can you help them to improve their perspective or are they reluctant to change?
These are all problems reading can solve.
Connections give life meaning. Reading makes you feel like you have experienced something personal. When an idea you’ve read about appears in life you get the impression that you have experienced it before. This gives more meaning to your reading and your life.
Coincidence as a Form of Perspective
Coincidence is defined as “the occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have some connection.” Coincidences come in many forms. They are commonly encountered in literature and in life.
In every form, you get more out of life by recognizing the connection than by ignorance.
Coincidence is interesting because to recognize the coincidence you must make a mental connection between two distinct events. The more you learn or have experienced, the more coincidences you recognize.
For example, there are those that believe that the appearance of a certain series of numbers in nature constitutes a coincidence worth exploring. The number set, known as the Fibonacci sequence, comes up everywhere from the arrangement of leaves on a stem to the arrangement of a pine cone. The meaning we give to the number creates the potential for coincidence.
The recognition between two events makes you feel a renewed excitement about life. I get excited when I have made another connection because I understand I can examine it and look at it from all angles to try to weave it into my understanding of the world. Be very careful, however, not to be so carried away by the coincidence that you are blinded and cannot recognize future connections.
By way of example, if you spent your life searching for the occurrence of the Fibonacci sequence in nature you would shut yourself off from making other connections just by sheer focus. Instead, be open to connections of all kind and take joy in recognizing coincidences in life.
Paul Auster’s Use of Coincidence
Paul Auster has earned a reputation as an author that puts coincidence under a microscope. To Auster, people are so influenced by the continuity among them that they do not see the elements of coincidence, inconsistency, and contradiction in their own lives. By exploring these coincidences Auster creates contradictions and contrast in this writing and uses that idea to explore the contradictions in his own life. In other words, he uses coincidence to highlight his novels for the reader.
Auster understands we are programmed to focus on connections. We do this when reading and in life. It’s only when we stop looking that we need to worry about our ability to enjoy life.
(If you’re interested in experiencing Auster’s play with coincidence you can try his Moon Palace. In it, Auster really plays with the question, is there any such thing as coincidence? If you’re really interested, we can even read it together.)
I encourage you to recognize connections between events in your life or coincidences. The more you can either collect or create by imagination the more data you will have to rely on in answering the ultimate questions in life. Reading is a method of collecting data and exercising the imagination. The act of recognizing coincidence is an exercise in appreciation.
By way of a preview, we will be talking more about perspective soon. Expect us to cover topics such as:
1. Story as perspective.
2. Community as perspective.
3. Human perspective as distinct from animal perspective.
4. World creation as perspective.
5. The perspective gained from understanding two Greek words.
6. Socialization and perspective.
7. Depression and perspective.
8. American perspective.
9. Man v. Man and perspective.
10. Home as perspective.
14. A Writer’s perspective.
And more! So, stay tuned.
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