This is the final installment of the Visionary Fiction as Personal Therapy Series. In part 1, we discussed recognition, when a reader experiences a sense of familiarity while reading. In part 2, visionary fiction authors expressed their feelings of recognition while they were writing their stories. In part 3, various authors discussed how they reacted to issues in books they read. Part 4 dealt with juxtaposition, e.g, insight gleaned from the text. Today we will discuss self-application, how readers adapt the insight they developed from the books they have read into their lives.
From childhood, as soon as I learned to read, I wanted to write. My life-long desire was “to be an author”. As a young adult, that desire had changed slightly to “write a story with meaning”. For me it was practically a given that story should contribute something positive to humanity. The only problem had always been to identify what that “something” should be in my own fledgling novel. I had started writing it in my early twenties (now published as Systems). It had characters and a skeleton of a plot. It involved a quest, but details were lacking. In the end, my ongoing study of the Quran via Parwez’s work (and also some non-fiction work I was doing elsewhere, Secular Jinnah) finally gave me that special “something”. Parwez had essentially argued from the Quran that creating an “ideal” society is not only possible, but is imperative in unlocking human potential. It became a simple matter of integrating these ideas into my novel: A government-sponsored computer simulation proves the possibility of an ideal society, and then elite forces, who see this development as a threat to their power, shut it down. But the data survives and becomes the quest item thirty years later. I got what I wanted: A story with meaning; and at the same time, the process of developing the novel gave me further opportunities to review my thought processes in ways that only creative writing can provide. (Website)
As a reader, I can feel the shift of all the four points we’ve discussed in this series, especially when I’m reading something from a masterful visionary author. Oftentimes the search is mystical as was the case with Philip K. Dick. He wrote about his own spiritual questions in his literary works. Valis came from his trying to understand a spiritual experience. He penned The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch after seeing a giant metallic face in the sky. In the documentary, Philip K. Dick – The Penultimate Truth, his third wife, Anne Williams Rubenstein said, “I think that he was trying to work out in that book [Philip K. Dick] an enormous conflict he had in his own life.”
In Valis, the protagonist, (who represented PDK) sought to define something that was undefinable, and the journey to discover it almost made him lose his mind. When reading Valis, I gathered that PDK had stopped trying to figure out what had happened to him. I mentioned, in my last post, that I ended my quest for definitive answers and that it liberated me and made me happier. How I apply it to my life is that by not seeking absolutes, I accept things I cannot know and gain a deeper appreciation of that which I do know and experience. The thing about absolutes is they come with judgment statements. I think that is why my higher conscience delivered the following message, “It’s not about being right or wrong; it’s all about the experience.” By living for the experience as opposed to all the judgements I made in the past, I’m free to experience the richness of life that can only be experienced by living in the moment. (Website)
When playwright Martin Epstein was in elementary school, the teacher had the students create a journal. When it came time for the class to read aloud from their work, one kid started his entry: “Today I am a cowboy!” and continued with a detailed fantasy of his life on the range. Shocked with delight, the young Martin thought, “You’re allowed to do that?” and his life and worldview were never the same.
If one definition of insight in reading is to receive inner visions, in-sights, as we read, then a very powerful insight is the opening up of new worlds. I don’t necessarily mean Narnia or Middle Earth, though for a young reader these worlds will do; I mean when a book inspires a writer, artist, or any human for that matter, by a fresh act of imagination, to see a new vision of the world, and to apply that vision through a personal act of creation.
One such book for me is Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics. Each story begins with a statement of a scientific theory, such as The Big Bang, followed by an anthropomorphic rendering of the theory, as a human drama or an inner psychological soliloquy. The concept of investing atomic particles or prehistoric mollusks with deep philosophical musings was revelatory to me. Calvino’s writing not only inspired me to create 1001 conscious beings for my series The Reincarnation Chronicles, but to look at every entity in the world, be it animate, inanimate, or abstract, as containing energy and consciousness.
Eleni Papanou is an award-winning author and perpetual student of life. Visit her website for news and updates