Scott’s Thoughts: The Lives of Others

“How can we imagine what our lives should be without the illumination of the lives of others?”

-James Salter, American novelist and short-story writer. Quote from his novel “Light Years.”

Elderly man reading.

It may be true that we can never know what it’s like to live another’s life, but striving to understand the lives of others can enrich our own and aid us in our troubles.

Great writers and film makers exert incredible influence over our opinions and perspectives when they empathetically portray events we have never experienced. Remember the last film you saw or book you read that left you seeing the world a little differently? Even if the events didn’t “really happen,” you certainly felt the emotional and intellectual impact, didn’t you?

If you prefer non-fiction to fiction, you may have experienced a similar effect from some of the great biographies. Though the best are well-researched and brilliantly written, biographies compress and order a life in a way which lends meaning and significance to life’s events. Reading about the lives of politicians, painters, scientists, and writers can provide tremendous perspective. This is especially true when you read widely throughout history. Though the circumstances of our lives may seem unique, we quickly realize that our most important fears, desires, and questions persist through time.

This week, try not to spend all of your leisure time in the shallows of the news cycle. Go deeper. Seek distance. Find solace and inspiration in the lives of others.

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