The Sweetest Form of Usefulness

So, I have a confession…Alright two confessions.

First, I don’t know why, but I totally have a strong inclination to start posts with “So, I have a confession…” but now I have admitted it…that is the first step right?

Second confession…I sometimes will have an idea for a post, but I don’t feel like writing it right at that moment.  So, I’ll leave a vague uninspired title and quick message in the body and just save it as a draft.  This would all be fine, but then I leave them…for months!  This week I am determine to sit down and write a couple of them.

Last Spring, I read the book “A Jane Austen Education” by William Deresiewicz.  It is a narrative non-fiction about what lessons one man learned from Austen and her stories.   I would only recommend it if you are a die-hard Janeite or a true lover of narrative non-fictions.  Overall, I thought his story was interesting, but hardly captivating.  His conclusions about Austen’s stories were not inaccurate and who am I to contradict a lesson learned and applied to someone else’s life.  Still, several of his claims about Jane’s main points seemed at varying degrees to miss the mark.

Now, I may have disagreed with some of his conclusions, but Deresiewicz wrote something that I really enjoyed and believe to be true, enough that I stopped reading to write it down.

Austen was not a novelist for nothing: she knew that our stories are what make us human, and that listening to someone else’s stories – entering into their feelings, validating their experiences – is the highest way of acknowledging their humanity, the sweetest form of usefulness.

In one of my several job applications, I had to answer an essay question and the resulting paragraph was more of an ode to stories than anything else.  I love stories; telling them, listening to other people’s, reading them: fictional or true.  Each one tells something about the person sharing and to share in that with them is just so beautifully human.

So, William I-Can’t-Pronounce-Your-Last-Name, I may disagree with you when it comes to some of your theories on Austen, but I agree that listening to another person’s stories may be one of the simplest and sweetest forms of usefulness.


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