Eternal seekers, humans are also time travelers. Separated by comforting (but illusory) shelters–houses and skin–they journey among others and through others. A simple word, a name called out in a crowd, suddenly connects the speaker and the unsuspecting, in-his-own-world hearer in a moment of communal recognition. This is the magic of language.
But beyond the word, driving the journey of sentences, is the uncoded language neither spoken or written: the language of compassion. Compassion is the foundation of every act of communion, not merely writing. We ‘read’ others with a willingness to believe them if they are true, paint the real of our experiences. Moreover, we empathize in reading and writing, experiencing or anticipating an other’s suffering or success. A story character we have grown to love falters, missteps and fails, and we grieve.
“The state of reading consists in the complete elimination of the ego,” Virginia Woolf wrote, and it is true. To be in the story, we must suspend ourselves to be others for a while.