Literature appeals to the “best angels of our nature”

Cory Wells Lovell

“Reading is an adventure. The adventures concern the unknown… Literature is a mixture of ignorance and recognition. The situation can take us anywhere – across time and space, the globe, through the lives of people who can never be like us – into the heart of an anguish we have never felt – crimes we could not commit. Yet, as we travel deeper into the strange world of history, we feel understood – which is strange when you think about it, because in school, learning is based on understanding or not from what we read. In fact, it is history that understands us. Books connect us to ourselves. —Jeanette Winterson

These words are an eloquent rendering of the almost indescribable power of humanity’s ability to describe itself and its experiences. A power that transcends space and time.

During human civilization we have seen the immense power of literary expression to arouse fear, anger and resistance. Partly because of its ability to humble us and cause wonder in our souls.

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Human literature, of the sacred and secular varieties (those designations being far too strict and cumbersome to contain the nuance of life) is now being attacked in our polarized age with a vigor and vindictiveness that testify to the transcendent power that Winterson has so beautifully described. .

The power to transcend our limited experiences and viewpoints and expand our hearts by caring ever more for our fellow human beings. Books touch us in the same way that the “better angels of our nature,” as President Abraham Lincoln so fondly describes, are supposed to. They expand our circle of concern and instruct us in the pathways of empathy and in the possibilities of living and living beyond which we are first exposed.

Indeed, the importance of accessibility to a wide range of literature has been championed throughout our democracy by such broad American luminaries across the cultural spectrum as Emily Dickinson, Frederick Douglass, Ronald Reagan, and Laura Bush. These individuals each spoke of the intellectual freedom and ethical instruction they received from the literature of their time.

Volumes as diverse as the philosophy of Sapho to the adventures of Superman. Because no book, no literature should be put out of reach of any human mind. Instead, we must encourage a collective responsibility, shared in collaboration and concert, to contextualize the transcendent power of literature toward the betterment of all humanity.

The brunt of the current attack on literary culture is felt by our nation’s librarians. A once revered and admirable profession now under immense pressure and public scrutiny.

One of these officials recently described the painstaking care with which they try to conserve and support our community; “We develop our library collections very intentionally, based on the age, experiences and needs of the students we serve. We deeply respect the right of parents to monitor what their own children read, while fighting to the end that no parent can decide what other children can read.

At All Souls Unitarian Church, for over a century we have strived to maintain one of the most basic and vital aspects of our religious tradition, that of an open canon and an open pulpit. . In our place of worship, we welcome and interpret a wide range of writings, those from our roots in the Jewish and Christian scriptures, those from religions around the world, in Buddhist manuscripts, the Hindu Vedas, the Quran and many more. other sources of spiritual wisdom.

We hold them sacred, as the Reverend John Buehrens once described, “not as divine literature about humans, but as human literature about the Divine.”

All Souls will continue to celebrate, defend and protect the transcendent power of human literature. We also invite you to do so. The 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. services on October 23 will be devoted to freedom of expression and highlight excerpts from a collection of so-called “banned books” read by children, young people, librarians and others .

We hope that you will join us and that as we read them, they can also read us.

Cory Wells Lovell currently serves on the ministry team at All Souls Unity Church in Tulsa.

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