I've been a lover of books ever since I can remember (I apparently taught myself to read before I started school), it doesn't matter what form they come in fiction or non-fiction I love them both equally.
The thing about fiction books is the ability of the author to paint a picture of the characters, to make them come alive through the pages of the book that makes you feel like you know them in an intimate way. My favourite fiction books are the ones where you see the "character development" as the characters change and adapt to their environment, challenges and situations they are faced with. Like characters in books we are not robotic, static characters unchanged by the people we surround ourselves with or the circumstances and opportunities that we are presented with.
When I was at school I remember my teacher asking the class to define who we are in so many words and I can remember really struggling with this in order to find an answer that was a true representation of who I was. I can remember writing down kind and generous amongst other words which were really non-specific and true in some instances and not true at all in other respects.
I still struggle with this aspect of defining who I am. Are we really our characters? Do we not play different characters to some degree or other in accordance to who we are with at the time? Are you the same person with your close friends as you are your work colleagues? Are you the same person with your family as you are with the people you just meet? Do we not have a different character when when we are more stressed in comparison to when life is treating us good or when we are in love?
I've recently finished reading The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell which is about how small things can make a big impact and one of the many stories that stuck out for me was one of an experiment performed on student seminaries, where they were asked to prepare a short talk on a biblical theme and present it at a nearby building. Before the experiment began they were given a questionnaire about why they had studied theology, was it as a means of personal or spiritual fulfillment? Or were they looking for a practical tool for finding meaning in everyday life? They were then given varied subjects on the theme they were asked to talk about, some were asked to talk about the relevance of the professional clergy to the religious vocation and others were given the parable of the Good Samaritan. Finally the instructions given were varied too in some cases as they sent the students on their way the experimenter would look at his watch and say "Oh you're late". On the way to the presentation each student ran into a man slumped in an alleyway head down, eyes closed, coughing and groaning. If you were to predict who would help, would it be the students who had been reminded of the Good Samaritan? Or the people who entered into the seminary as a way to help the needy? Neither factor made any difference the only thing that mattered was whether the student was in a rush.
What The Tipping Point highlighted for me was how each of us is influenced by our surroundings, people, environment e.t.c. without even being aware of how these things influence us. What the above experiment suggests is that irrelevant of our thoughts or the feelings in our heart is the immediate contexts of our behaviour. By thinking we don't have time could turn a character that is usually compassionate and caring into someone that doesn't stop or even acknowledge when someone is in need. So if our characters are so interchangeable and dependent on context I'm left to ponder who am I if I'm not my character?
We are in part the characters that we portray but we are also so much more than that. Viewing and thinking ourselves to being a set way is limiting. I want to be able to acknowledge and accept myself in all situations; situations where I feel like I'm flowing in alignment with who I feel is my true character or my true self and also the shadow parts of me where I feel like I'm moving from a place that I don't necessarily want to accept as being part of my character. The next question to ponder is how do we know whether we are flowing in alignment with our true character and can we really separate ourselves from external factors and outside influences? I think the answer lies in continually questioning and exploring, perhaps we will gain a glimpse into our true nature or what we initially think is truth will actually completely change.
Advanced clinical massage therapist and yoga teacher.