Why reading makes you better

This sort of piggybacks on the last paragraph of my last post. I love that books expose you to things you might never get a chance to experience in real life. I might never get to live in another country, but I can read about other people that do and get a feel for what that would be like. That’s why books make you more empathic because you read about other peoples’ lives and how they feel and you learn to understand people better because reading literary fiction extends your empirical knowlege of human beings with theoretical knowledge of human beings and their motivations and behaviors. And when you can emotionally understand why people do what they do even if you’ve never experienced it yourself — well, there you go, that’s empathy!

Years ago when I was traveling through Costa Rica, I went on a weekend trip with a bunch of people I had met at the Spanish school. There was one girl in particular that I thought was a little prejudiced and it made me dislike her. But after spending a few days with her I realized that she wasn’t a bad person or an unlikeable person, she just didn’t know any better. Her experiences in life were so limited she honestly didn’t know how else to be. I gained empathy for her and with that new knowledge of her, I realized that there wasn’t anything cruel about her naive notions of the world — she just needed to learn more about it.

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