When words speak to you
Every once in a while, you’ll be reading a book, or maybe its a personal essay, you’ll be reading something, and you’ll come across a line that will stop you in your tracks. A phrase that no matter how many lines you’ve read already, or how many you have left to read, will stand out like nothing else. A line that will bury itself deep inside your stomach, and change the way you see that work or maybe even the way you see the entire world. Sometimes, words just speak to you.
For me, it’s this line in Robin McKinley’s Deerskin: “At first Lissar merely ran away; away from the yellow city, away from the prince whom she loved with both halves of her broken heart.” No matter how long it’s been since I’ve read this book (its never been more than a year, though), no matter how many other books I’ve read since then, literally nothing I can do will make me forget this line.
It has buried itself so deeply into my subconscious, that even just a single word of it can bring back the whole line, and all the feelings I’ve associated with it. Every time I read that book, and I get to Chapter 31, 251 pages into my edition, I have to stop. It’s my favorite line in the entire piece and has somehow managed to elicit a physical response — I can feel it — every time I’ve read it.
I don’t know how else to explain it. Even if you haven’t felt the feeling as strongly as I have, I’m positive you know what I’m talking about. It might not feel like it happens much anymore, but anyone who truly enjoys reading, has a line, or a couple lines, that make them feel this way.
You’ll want to read it slowly, out loud, this perfect combination of words, because it will validate your entire experience. You’ll want to share it will other people, but no one will quite understand, because no one has lived your life, has read the same books as you. But that won’t stop you from loving it. From reaching the end of that sentence, or that paragraph, and not being able to read any farther until you lovingly re-read that passage at least five more times.
It’s a feeling that I long for when I’m reading, but one I can’t seem to find that often anymore. I remember it used to happen a lot more. I don’t remember a particular line, but I remember very vividly a scene at the end of A Wizard of Earthsea, that grabbed hold of me and tethered me to that book. I couldn’t put it down until I was finished. It was the first book I stayed up all night to read.
That sense of awe is something incredible, that has the ability to define you more than you’re willing to admit. It proves how transformative art and literature can be; it makes you feel like that author was writing directly to you.
And it’s something that I think is lost on a lot of adults. If you didn’t start reading as a kid, when everything you read seemed interesting and smart, books might not be able to give you that sensation, but something else probably did. Whether it was a line in a song, or seeing the vastness of the ocean for the first time, awe is an incredible feeling.
It can heal you, it can inspire you, it can break your heart, but it can also make you feel whole. It’s an emotion we should search out more often, wherever we can find it, because it’s not only an awesome feeling, I’m convinced it makes us better people. It makes you feel tiny (in a good way), like you just put the last piece of a puzzle into place, like everything makes a little bit more sense.
It makes you kinder, it inspires you, it makes you want to share that feeling with anyone you can. It makes you want create something, anything. Awe inspires me to write. It’s the thing that fuels my late night writing sprees, when I know I should be sleeping, but in just a few more minutes. It’s one of my favorite feelings, like a mixture of joy, fear, and anticipation. It’s the embodiment of wonder.
It reminds me of having a crush on a boy when you’re 16, but without the inevitable heartbreak. And it’s something the world needs more of. I’m not sure what I can do to spread more of it, but if laughter is contagious, maybe awe is too.