I read pretty much nothing but fiction until I was 30.  I’ve read almost exclusively nonfiction since then.  Whereas when I was younger I’d enjoy reading to feel the impact of a complete story that I could immerse myself in, these days I jump from book to book, tracking the larger story of evolution, a story I feel surrounded by almost all the time.

With each book I read I feel I’m exploring this evolving world.  I’ve developed reading habits that encourage that experience.

I often refer to Freud in evolutionary theory.  Freud was a recapitulationist, paying close attention to how the different scales of evolution interrelated.  I spent much time studying Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP), hypnotic therapeutic intervention and the humanists, such as Fritz Pearls, Rogers, Maslow, Janov and their contemporaries.  From 1980 to about 1984, I studied and read everything published by the NLP School of psychology and communication, becoming a licensed practitioner in 1981.  My artistic sensibilities were deeply influenced by the sense-based model.  I learned to interpret and understand relationship dynamics by observing behaviors.  Interconnection became a reality rather than just an intuited possibility.  Studying NLP, exploring how modeling worked and how models were developed, I felt like I had entered the sense-based world.

Entering the sense-based world, I began to feel like the world could make sense.  That the world could be modeled felt fascinating to me.  Modeling felt to me like an artistic process.

My son was born in 1984.  I didn’t read much the next few years.  When I wasn’t working, I painted in watercolors, mostly metaphoric maps of states of mind, moving on to producing comic panels and strips for several years.  I placed the comics in almost 200 publications.  From there, I was consumed by puppet design, producing 60 commercial puppets, seeking to then make a living as a manufacturer of those puppets.  During the period I was designing puppets, I starting reading again after an almost 10-year hiatus.  I became consumed by reading about dragons and the origins of dragon mythology.  That led to my love affair with evolution.

For the last dozen years or so, I have read several books at once, usually around four or five, but sometimes as many as a dozen.  The books are almost always nonfiction, each from a different discipline, often including subjects I can barely understand.  I underline and mark the pages I might end up citing.  Mostly I’m reading for pattern.  I read while feeling around for insights from out of left field, connections both deep and unique.  Mixing up disciplines while I read encourages the experience.

I had an interesting experience a couple nights ago.  I’ve been reading a book of Basque legends.  I was listening/looking for unique serpent or matrifocal myths that might offer insight regarding that ancient ethnicity.  There are lots of variations on the youngest son or daughter of three sons or daughters and the monster/serpent/witch that creates opportunity for wealth, mate, progeny and happiness.  I went from the Basque book to a book on theory of mind of chimpanzees and human children.  That would be followed by a book on the endocrinology of relationship, followed by a book on the failure of genetic models to explain the ontogenetic reality of environmental influence.

Turning from the Basque book to the theory of mind book, my mind did not shift from reading fiction, Basque legends, to reading descriptions of studies, what we call facts.  I very much read by reading aloud in my imagination.  I continued to subvocalize while reading the chimpanzee descriptions, except the studies became stories and the paradigm being promoted by the author was instead an ancient myth.

The book on endocrinology was clearly just the best story we have at this time for a larger story we barely understand.  The last book on genetics was a story about a story that seemed to be failing to perform its job as a story, which was to make clearer how things are deeply connected.

The process of reading nonfiction concepts as merely clues in a story, like the repeating motifs in ancient legends or myths, creates an opportunity for the unconscious to build theories in ways similar to how we dream a dream.  Elements that belong together start to congregate, whether or not there is an obvious connection, creating situations where potentially useful relationships can be made.  Integral to this process is a sense of excitement, like the hero or heroine leaving home to discover something new.  Also integral is a willingness to be involved in magic.

Reading nonfiction as if it were fiction may be more than an exercise of imagination.  It feels close to truth.  Interpreting “reality” as fiction makes me feel like I’m approaching models of reality as a form of play.  Differences between mythology and science may be fewer than we think.  Patterns in mythology are covert.  Patterns in science are overt.  Nevertheless, they are both seeking to model experience.

Having been fascinated by Freud, the humanists and NLP, I find that psychology feels relative to me.  Consider the potential usefulness of relating to all science, and all experience, on a relative basis, and then play.


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