In the writing process, an author comes to realize that readers are an invaluable part. We may write due to internal compulsions, and our books are fulfillment of the creative process, but without people to read those books, something very critical is missing. As we move into 2018, I’m reminded of how blessed I am to have your support and friendship as readers.
In appreciation, I’m giving you a gift. This is a nonfiction booklet I wrote bringing together material about Mayan Queens and women rulers in several cities in Mexico and Guatemala.
Magnificent Mayan Queens:
Native women of Power and Vision, Maya Preclassic to Late Classic Periods.
Why do we read?
Storytelling has been part of human society as long as anyone can remember. Before writing, primitive people gathered around a campfire to listen in rapt attention to the local storyteller weave tales of adventure or mystery. Now we sit down with a good book, e-reader, tablet, smart phone, even the TV or DVD for the same experience. Why is reading or listening to stories so compelling for humans? Psychologists who study the “Theory of Mind” say we’re always trying to guess what other people are thinking and feeling, even though we do this unconsciously. Why is this something people universally do? Because this helps us learn which people we can trust and which we cannot. It also provides basic foundations for social interaction; without this we would be in a quandary about how to respond to others.
Not much has changed in this quintessentially human trait in thousands of years, except the way we engage with stories. Researchers at the University of Liverpool found that social topics make up two thirds of people’s conversation through public media, regardless of age or gender. We continue to be fascinated by other people’s stories, one reason why gossip columns and celebrity cults stay popular. There’s no doubt a voyeur element here, but researchers believe the key value underlying this is empathy. A University of North Carolina psychologist reported that people with high empathy characteristics more easily engage in stories. However, this characteristic varies greatly among people. Some are easily touched emotionally while others seem unaffected by even the saddest or most miraculous stories.
Empathy is “the ability to identify oneself mentally with a person or thing and so understand the other’s feelings or meaning.” Native Americans described this ability as being able to walk in another person’s moccasins; the proverbial “walk a mile in my shoes.”An interesting research finding is that people who read more have an 83% chance of forming excellent relationships, while those who seldom read have only a 14% chance. It seems that when you can see the world through another’s eyes, you have more ability to form good relationships. Research suggests that this drive to seek understanding about the experiences and perspectives of other people is deeply ingrained, perhaps even instinctive.
So keep on reading!
Reading fiction is good for you. It opens a world onto other people and places, where you learn and have vicarious experiences. It goes beyond providing entertainment and diversion, and helps you develop social skills that enhance your relationships. Of course, I’ve got a few good books I can recommend:
The Visionary Mayan Queen: Yohl Ik’nal of Palenque
The Controversial Mayan Queen: Sak K’uk of Palenque
Empathy is indeed one of the great benefits of reading fiction, Leonide. And storytelling in general has proven to be a very effective method of preserving our histories and values, and passing them along to the next generation, one of the reasons why the wisdom of the Mayan culture still endures!
Preserving stories both orally and written in codices is a theme in my current work-in-progress, the final book in the Mayan Queens series. I completely agree with you that passing these through generations has preserved Maya wisdom and knowledge. Thanks for your comment.
The Quechua language of the Mayans, Aztecs and Inca has Semitic traces, which along with their Lebanese noses and Pyramids proves they were Phoenicians. They also share the mafia vendetta style of conflict management prominent in the Mediterranean which the Phoenicians colonized. Even the Punics from Carthage that first settled Spain were Phoenicians.
There was an ancient maritime culture that predated the Phoenicians, they navigated around the globe and no doubt left traces of their culture and genes in widely dispersed regions. A number of books have appeared recently about this culture. Appreciate your comment.