A Book Isn’t A Mirror. It’s A Door!

A couple weeks ago, we talked about Fran Lebowitz’s secret to be immensely rich: books. They also happen to be a secret to empathy and understanding.

There has been a big push lately for diversity and inclusion in books and television. This is important, obviously, because any system that does exclude voices is an unjust one. But we should also be careful in our pursuit—as readers or consumers—of art about people like me. As Fran explained, as someone from a small town in New Jersey, someone who was expelled from one school and suspended from another, someone who worked jobs scooping ice cream, driving taxis, and cleaning apartments—she’s thankful she didn’t see herself in her books. “I mean,” she says, “a book isn’t supposed to be a mirror. It’s supposed to be a door!”

Isn’t that what’s special about Meditations? We are not emperors. We don’t have 14 children. We are not Romans. We don’t lead massive armies. We didn’t have to live through the Antonine Plague. Yet it’s Marcus’s specificity—his unique individual experience—that makes him so universally relatable. He reveals, in his writing, that for all our differences, we are in fact the same.

When we were writing The Boy Who Would Be King, some of the early feedback from friends questioned—along the politically correct lines above—whether it was “exclusionary” to have a book about a boy who would be king. But the book isn’t about boys at all. It’s about destiny, it’s about becoming whoever you’re meant to be.

They say about only reading books everyone else reads that you will only think what everyone else is thinking. If you look for mirrors, you’ll only see yourself. Instead, we need to look for windows and doors. We want to learn from other people’s experiences. We want to see the world through their eyes…and see ourselves and our destiny a bit more clearly as a result.

P.S. The Daily Stoic Life Q&A is TODAY March 31 at 10am PDT/1pm EDT (as always, it will be recorded for later access). If you haven’t already, you can register here!

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