Five Life Skills from Reading Fiction

Reading a decent fiction is becoming a good human being. A creature that is unique, complete and special. Each and every part of the creature has a certain need that requires fulfilment. And it can’t stand alone, much like every human that’s part of society.

Reading a decent fiction offers a greyish area on dealing with life. That good and bad times offer me a various lens through which I can contemplate. Within one wonderful, comical story, such as Tortilla Flat, I can find the bitterest way of life reality. While in one melodramatic novel, like Tess D’Urbervilles, I can sense vague ending that opens up my mind that a human being, once again, needs love.

A serious person like I am, find reading a high-quality novel such a teaser. “You shouldn’t view life seriously all the time, En!,” such are the words if the novel could talk to me. For truly, within one decent fiction, I can relate almost all of my problems with the characters inside the story. To fully extract wisdom and life lesson is the final fruit of hard labor of love that I must undergo. Such a tiring journey that is worth every second I spend on each of the books.

As I grow older, it’s remarkable that I owe this hobby more than I thought of. It’s no longer about enjoying a certain story, looking for happily-ever-after but reading the book has indeed cultivated five skills that I need them more than ever nowadays.

Patience

“Hang on, there, En! More pages until we reach our target today.” I often say those words to motivate myself whenever I read a Victorian novel that’s typically thick, over 400 pages on average.

Reading that sort of book makes me highly value patience. I utilize the virtue for leading me understanding difficult words, visualizing facial expression, scene and place and catching author’s moral message.

Whenever I am to give up, I tell myself to get back to why I buy the book in the first place. Reembracing the intention usually works out for putting me back on the track. Patience is surely a life skill that will help us get through difficult phases in our lives. The good quality teaches us to concentrate on the long-run for indeed, sometimes you can’t reap the benefits of being patient right away.

Uniquely, patience is such a universal life skill that stretches beyond any circumstances. Not only for when facing calamities, we need to cultivate patience for staying on a path for achieving something, from good grades at school to land your dream job.

Persistence

I use reading a top novel as my kind of self-disciplined exercise. I can be hard on myself whenever I cease reading book for good. Middlemarch poses a good example for this. I abandoned the book on my bookshelf for years until one day an article led me reopening it. Then, voila! The book is my most beloved fiction (at least until now).

Whether it’s just one page per day or 100 pages per day, reading such book genre teaches me a lot about persistence. I usually make a personal target after I buy a novel. This time around, I set a target of reading 200 pages for Our Mutual Friend per week. Alhamdulillah (Thanks and praise to Allah SWT) that I am able to meet the target. Now, I’m on the page of 600 something with 200 pages to go.

You can set one-day target or per month target. Reading a classic may take weeks or months because of the thickness and difficulty level. It’s important to set a certain target then stick to it. If you can’t meet it, get back then resume the reading.

When it comes to real life, persistence is what makes extraordinary people different than the common ones. Many people can have the same goal in lives but only those with self-discipline will obtain that because they enjoy and adapt as the process goes.

Focus

Until today, I stick to read physical novels. I find it easier to concentrate through the method. I once tried reading e-novels but it lasted for few pages only. I got tired immediately and I couldn’t remember a lot from what I had read.

And I personally believe that reading paper-based books is better because this drives you away from distraction, if you read at your smartphone. Aside from that, reading the book genre teaches me to always, always focus on big pictures. Reading the book type cultivates my concentration on main characters, plot and author’s idea. You can easily get lost in minor figures, less important events and flowery words given the long reading that you take.

The same with life that can offer us with mundane and small things that don’t matter so much. If we don’t realize then take any actions, we’re bound to spend most of our lives doing things that won’t contribute to obtain our live goals, whatever they are.

Creativity

This is one amusing life skill that I greatly learn from the hobby. Despite the life-long value and wisdom in the book genre, Victorian authors are just creative people who are very good that you may think their stories are real.

From funny names to unthinkable decisions by leading figures, the book type adds knowledge and idea that really helps me for writing. I steal many things from the books that I read then mold them. I apply that for job’s sake to deal with problems in life. Funnily enough that the author’s writing style influences I communicate with myself and other people. I can’t say my talking is unique but, surely, I hope it isn’t boring and plain.

Empathy

I can’t count how many weird characters that I have discovered from reading fiction so far. Add to the list is bad guys, spoiled girl, idealistic doctor, super lovely daughter, materialistic woman, devoted and religious woman, sensitive boy and harsh man. I delve into their personalities so that I know the authors create them and how do they actually feel.

I don’t say that I affirm wrongdoings some of the fictional characters do. Neither I take side with certain figures who take bad decisions. Reading their traits teach me to not be judgmental, even for people who are deemed “not good enough”. The book genre urges me to feel what other people experience.

Believe me, you and I need to be emphatic people in today’s world that is getting unsocial as more and more are fulfilling their greed.

The Many Relationships with English Language

When I was a little girl, English Language was like a toy. It looked intriguing and amusing. The subject was addictive. My head was wrapped in endless questions. New and strange words made me very curious. I memorized new words, from a chair, table, horse and other items. The language invited me to have fun.

When I was at junior high school, I began studying it at the school. My English language teachers introduced me to grammar. More words came into my super tiny vocabulary pocket. Studying grammar wasn’t easy and I wasn’t a genius one. My scores were fair, eight on average. I had classmates who got better grades than I did. But I didn’t really care about that. The thing was the language made me having fun. Still.

When I was a senior high school student, the long affection started becoming a serious thing. It was no longer about entertainment. I still remember the moment when I was standing in front of the classroom reading what I wanted to be. I was marvelled at own story. I didn’t realize that I could write that much and that incredible. My classmates applauded at my presentation. My teacher praised my story, how I composed sentences that were explorative and creative. That was the time when I needed to take the relationship into a higher level. The time couldn’t be any more punctual because shortly after that, I was put into a Social Science class.

When I was at university, studying the language and its literature put me in ambiguity. I realize that I had university fellow mates who are much better than I am. I was very fortunate they were helping me improving the subject. Somehow, it wasn’t about studying it. It was more on how could I make a living with the language given the English Language is no longer a special subject in Yogyakarta or Solo. More English courses have been opened by that time. I was at the crossroad that almost drove me leaving the major. But I held on. I kept studying it although it was so dark and daunting. Until eventually, I knew that I wanted to a journalist for an English-language newspaper.

When I firstly moved to Jakarta, I had the language as my weapon to wither the tough life in the capital. Alas! The language has many faces that prompted me to get back to it as a professional. No more flowery words with spiral-thought writing style as I got used to. I had to use the language in straight forwarded manner. Avoid what was called as “the devils are in the details”. Frankly speaking, I felt stupid during the transition. I felt I had to study the language all over again. At this point, I regarded the language was harsh and difficult. I sought perfection that proved in vain.

When I quitted the profession, the language began friendlier. No more stiff and rigid pressure. As that was persisting for years, I saw my life was much calmer although financially unstable. I resumed embracing the language and the literature through classic books. Something that wasn’t pleasant when I was at the university.

Now that I’m a teacher, I feel English Language is such a faithful friend. I consider myself more as a student of the subject. I start collecting pictures for teaching me on English words like what I did when I was the happy kid. I study about grammar again. This time around, my purpose is for sharing them with my students and friends. Becoming the teacher of the language makes me feeling stupid again. The difference is, I consider that feeling as a privilege because I attempt to make a balance between studying and enjoying the process.

It’s remarkable to take a look back on how I feel with the language that’s close to my heart. Teaching the language humbles me. Every time I am about to teach, I always remind myself that I, after all, is the student of the language. This sets me free from feeling arrogant and selfish. I’m just a pupil. What must I be bragged about?

Deep in Awe with “Our Mutual Friend” by Charles Dickens

Four more pages for reaching half of the super thick Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. Thanks to the COVID-10 pandemic that I have enough time for reading the book. I have been using the last two weekends to read a bit faster hence within a short time, I read 407 pages. And still, other 415 pages to go!

Mind you! The blog post isn’t about self-praising on reading that number of pages. For, frankly speaking, I lost in some ways in the details of the story. I kept mentioning the number of pages to appreciate myself to have come thus far. For surely, I questioned myself would I still experience a deep reading like I felt before I owned a smartphone? Would my heart be embedded into certain characters or scenes? Reading Our Mutual Friend proves that remains unshaken. And I couldn’t be any happier in terms of reading habit.

Gosh! How intricate this book is! It’s like disclosing one giant puzzle. This puzzle consists of minuscule details in the form of characters, metaphors and scenes that unless I put the total focus, I’ll get lost let alone complete the riddle. Nicky Hornby in his introduction said the novel is well below Great Expectations, which I couldn’t agree more. But the novel remains tough and captivating.

Unlike the masterpiece, Our Mutual Friend intrigues my brain. Once again, I admire Dickens for his skill in keeping readers attached to the story. To begin this post, I want to highlight, which Dickens readers must be surely familiar with, about plenty of characters, here.

Alas! Many of them have aliases that I may get confused time and time again if I don’t open the list of characters section before the novel begins. I actually dislike this abundant character thingy because I have to memorize them although not all of them play significant roles.

Thankfully, Dickens is such an artist, even for creating his minor characters. He often portrays comical characters that I always enjoy. In this novel, I love the characters around the Veneering family and the Lammle couple. I really like the way he mocks and makes fun of the wealthy people.

There are characters that represent lower-class society. And Dickens isn’t wholly pitiful for them. Through Mrs. Betty Higden, for instance, he brings up pride within the heart of the poor that sadly to say, costs the life of poor Johnny.

And the second element that really fascinates me is on how he weaves the plot. He starts with a mystery of a drowning man called John Harmon, the heir of an estate. From there, the story rolls and ties most of the characters to chase the wealth that’s under the hands of Nicodemus Boffin, the servant of the elder Mr. Harmon.

Interestingly, Dickens doesn’t make the heir as the dominant figure in the story. John Harmon isn’t dead. He returns to claim the fortune and seeks a wife as promised by his father. I think this what makes Our Mutual Friend is such a brilliant work of mind exercise. I truly salute how Dickens can turn John Harmon into such a charismatic and curious figure although he doesn’t overpower the story (at least until page 407).

The method sheds another light on Dicken’s mastery for bringing up influential protagonist through “sufficient” statements and actions. Such an efficient way of storytelling, I bet so.

As such, I can enjoy other minor to medium characters in the novel. The dutiful Lizzie, the spoilt Bella Wilfer, and the lovely Georgiana Podsnap. Shocking characters include Mr. Bradley Headstone and Fascination Fledgeby. Both seem calm and intellect on the inside but you can’t tell what their actual traits are.

Wish me luck for the half journey, hehe..

Putting on New Lens for My Second Literary Journey

I may haven’t shared in this modest blog that I planned to no longer read any fictions, including classics, that have been so special in my heart. Last year’s devastating heartbrokenness caused me to abandon any reading-for-pleasure thingy that I thought would pain me even further.

I mostly read books or articles about my religion, Islam, and started learning a bit of Arabic language. The last fiction that I read was “The Invisible Man” by H.G Wells that I didn’t review because I don’t quite like the book.

I enjoyed reading books about Islam, to be honest. During some months of total focus on the book genre, I realized I took classic books too much. I need help to stay positive and upbeat about life. Alas, most of the classics that I admire are stories about longingness, realistic romance, poverty, women rights, social values, idealism, materialism and other heavy stuff.

After reading that kind of books for around 10 years, eventually, there came the time when I was forced to review how my reading had affected my soul and my mind so far. And again, frankly speaking, I couldn’t help feeling sorrowful, pessimistic and unenthusiastic about my personal life and the world. I know that I shouldn’t act that way. That no matter how “close” the classics are to real live and people, they are still the works of imagination and prone to subjectivity. The books manifest their author’s opinions, past experiences and critics.

I admit that I was too much absorbed in the books that let them taking hold of my views about life in general. The heartbrokenness somehow refreshes my thought to finally coming back to read fictions, and of course, classic books, again. Do you know what?

At first, I felt so afraid of reembracing Victorian Literature for the dry wound would bleed again. And poor me! There were moments when I felt I wanted to really leave reading fictions for good. I wanted to ignore the book type because I said to myself the book genre was no good for my life.

During such time, I read printed books, as well. I even thought about dedicating my whole life for reading non-fiction. I resumed reading “Homo Deus” by Yuval Noah Harari. But I dislike the book. Not because I don’t yet accustom for reading non-fiction but the book isn’t well-organized. Too much information in such an overly crowded structure. I don’t know if I want to finish reading it or not.

And then there comes this COVID-19 outbreak. It has been almost two weeks that I have been working from home. Since the stay-at-home campaign was launched early March 2020, I thought of coming to read fictions. I missed being glued in very decent novels by Thomas Hardy or George Eliot. I missed getting lost in beautiful, artsy writing styles of Victorian writers. And yes, I missed imagining how peaceful and sociable life back then. And ah! the dress, the gown.. How I adore lace, pastel colours and a long skirt that make female characters in the book genre so graceful and ladylike, LOL!

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens

So, last Saturday, I affirmed myself to shop briefly. Of course, I went to Kinokuniya bookstore at Plaza Senayan shopping mall, here, in Jakarta. I couldn’t help myself grabbing a classic book to help to go through yet another week of the stay-at-home period.

I wanted to unwind from getting connected to the internet while couldn’t step outside my room that I rent. Sure enough, I can read abundant articles and stories from my smartphone or laptop but doing so can’t release my mind and put me at ease. Reading printed books can only do that.

I thought of buying one of Sherlock Holmes series. Mind you! After the break, I have decided to limit reading books on fiction. I won’t read about romance anymore and all things that look gloomy and depressing. I couldn’t think of laying my choice any better than to read books about mystery, detective thingy and fantasy, much like Gulliver’s Travels.

And the bookstore offers so many versions of Sherlock Holmes. To my delight, it was easy to choose the Sherlock Holmes options, depending on my budget, LOL! But then, I am not really into Sherlock Holmes, by the way.

I couldn’t resist the temptation of glimpsing into other books, which of course, by famous Victorian writers. So, my eyes caught Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens. I haven’t heard the title. I intended to buy the book after I read the cover text which says the book tells about greed.

Greed, hmm.. Why did the theme suddenly pop up in my head during the coronavirus time? No topics can’t fit today’s pandemic better than this one. When I was looking at the title, my eyes moved to the book next to it.

Voila! It was Our Mutual Friend! Oh my God! I was looking for the book for years until I forgot it. I smiled, then grinned then relieved. I couldn’t find any better companion than this title. I didn’t want to grab it right away for I wanted to greet my friend long enough before officially embarking the second literary journey.

“Oh, you! So happy to see you!” I said to myself at that time as if the book could speak!

I brought it to the store’s cashier section and now, I am on page 200 something. The book is also about greed on money which really suits my search. No need to worry about coming to bleakness because I have Alqur’an as my wise reminder.

My daily reading routine runs like this: at the morning, I will read Alqur’an or listen to its interpretation by ustadz Nouman Ali Khan. After that, I read Our Mutual Friend. Sometimes at night, I continue reading the novel or reading a book about the History of Islam.

Such a packed and fully-loaded reading stuff but I’m happy that I keep myself productive and occupied with positive things. I always, always remind myself to keep reading at balance. Make the activity stands equal between Islam and fiction.

For now, I’m glad to tell myself that I don’t have to leave fiction, especially classic reading, again. I come to it with a brand new perspective and genuine love as I always feel.

Membaca Buku Bisa Berbahaya. Ini Alasannya

Ini bukan berbicara tentang deretan buku terlarang yang selama ini kita kenal. Di balik pengetahuan umum bahwa membaca buku itu bermanfaat ada fakta yang entah disadari oleh semua pembaca buku atau tidak. Ambil contoh saya sendiri.

Walau saya suka membaca buku dari kecil, saya baru menekuni hobi ini setelah kuliah. Saya tidak menganggap kesukaan saya membaca buku saat sekolah sebagai hobi. Lebih tepatnya, hobi saya tersebut lebih untuk menaikkan nilai saya saat di kelas hingga di bangku universitas.

Berhubung saya kuliah mengambil jurusan Sastra Inggris, buku yang baca di sela bekerja adalah fiksi. Saya menyadari ada banyak buku bagus yang belum saya baca saat kuliah jadi seolah balas dendam, saya jadi melahap banyak judul. Ada benang merah dari buku yang saya. Hampir semuanya buku dengan tema sedih, bahkan depresif. Mulai dari Sastra Inggris klasik, Amerika hingga India, semua bertemakan demikian.

Beberapa tahun terakhir saya fokus ke Sastra Inggris klasik saja. Saya dulu merasa bangga dengan kegemaran membaca buku saya ini. Saya sering bilang ke teman-teman saya akan menaruh level tinggi untuk membaca, sedang atau bahkan rendah untuk menonton. Saya bilangnya sih untuk mencapai keseimbangan agar hidup nggak berat-berat amat. Padahal dipikir-pikir, film-film yang saya tonton pun mayoritas komedi satir, romantis yang terlampaui membuai hingga bali lagi, sedih.

Atas nama realistis saya melanjutkan pilihan saya tersebut. Saya fokus menikmati alur cerita, akhir kisah dan pastinya, teknik penceritaan dari masing-masing penulis. Buku dari Thomas Hardy, George Eliot dan John Steinbeck menjadi yang paling saya suka baca. Saya menyukai penulis Inggris zaman Victoria yang hidup di abad 18 dan 19. Tidak bisa dipungkiri, cara penuturan kata, level imajinasi dan kreativitas mereka sungguh detil dan indah. Seni banget, kata saya.

Bertahun-tahun, saya bergantung pada buku-buku mereka di kala waktu senggang. Saya tumbuh menjadi orang yang lebih empati, sabar (sebab satu buku bisa 800an halaman) dan tentu saja menambah kosakata saya. Kreativitas dan observasi saya menjadi lebih baik. Punya teman duduk terbaik saat sendiri atau di kost hingga menambah pengetahuan.

Tapi ada satu dampak negatif yang baru belakangan ini saya mau mengakuinya. Saya tumbuh bersama pemikiran mereka. Thomas Hardy yang cenderung murung melalui karakter-karakternya. Tidak ada yang benar-benar berakhir bahagia di mayoritas novelnya yang saya baca. George Eliot masih mendingan, setidaknya untuk Middlemarch dan Adam Bede. Tapi jangan mengharap bahagia yang eksplosif.

Jika ingin mencari akhir yang riang, mungkin bisa membaca karya-karya Jane Austen. Saya sering mendengar banyak orang mencari buku dengan akhir yang bahagia. Dulu saya suka meremehkan keinginan tersebut karena buat saya ya, itu produk yang terlalu mengikuti keinginan pasar.

Sampai sekarang saya masih berpegang pada prinsip itu, kecuali si penulis memang dari awal jujur akan seperti apa akhir buku yang dia buat. Di lain pihak, saya akhirnya mengakui kegemaran bacaan saya selama ini (ya setidaknya sampai akhir 2018) adalah untuk memberi makan nafsu saya, keinginan saya yang tidak menjadi kenyataan hingga mimpi saya yang saya tahu tidak baik.

Betapa ketidakjujuran tersebut membawa saya ke buku-buku yang ditulis oleh mereka yang sudah wafat dan mempunyai perspektif kurang lebih sama dengan saya. Ini berlaku dalam banyak aspek kehidupan. Memang benar, hidup itu harus realistis dalam artian ada senang dan sedih, kehilangan dan perjumpaan, dan sebagainya.

Dan sungguh kelihaian penulis-penulis di atas dalam menuangkan imajinasi dan pendapat mereka begitu melenakan saya. Hingga saya pun mengagumi mereka melampaui kadar yang semestinya. Saya lupa atau mengabaikan bahwa mereka juga manusia biasa. Masa lalu, mimpi, pandangan pribadi mereka sudah pasti mempengaruhi karya yang mereka tulis.

Saat saya kuliah, hal semacam tersebut sudah sering dibahas. Tapi entahlah, saya memilih menutup mata dan membaca karya mereka murni sebagai fiksi belaka. Hingga akhirnya saya terjerembab dalam jurang kesedihan dan skeptisme yang membentuk kepribadian saya selama bertahun-tahun.

Satu hal yang saya pelajari juga adalah bahwa sastra, betapa pun bagusnya itu, menampung ekspresi manusia. Susah mencari manusia yang benar-benar adil, apalagi untuk sebuah fiksi dimana dia bisa menulis apa yang dia mau.

Kabar baiknya adalah di sinilah tugas seorang pembaca yang baik. Berkaca dari pengalaman saya, sungguh saya mengajak teman-teman, baik yang doyan baca atau tidak, untuk terus mengevaluasi bacaan.

Terus pertanyakan apa tujuan membaca kalian terlebih dahulu. Apakah murni hiburan, mengumpani ego atau nafsu, menambah wawasan atau yang lainnya. Buat saya, pembaca yang baik semestinya tidak membatasi bacaan. Membuka wawasan dengan membaca banyak tulisan dari lintas pemikiran, rentang generasi hingga menembus batasan budaya.

Dan yang terpenting dari semuanya adalah sadari bahwa pada akhirnya kitalah yang harus mengolah apa pun yang kita baca. Jangan buru-buru mengambil pengaruh dari penulis tertentu. Mungkin terbaca agak melompat, tapi buat saya setiap membaca sadari bahwa si penulis tetaplah manusia biasa. Selalu kembalilah ke kata-kata Tuhan sebagai pemilik kebenaran mutlak.

Buat saya sebagai seorang muslim, ya balik ke Alqur’an, lagi dan lagi.. Semakin banyak membaca karya manusia, Alqur’an akan saya terus pegang semakin erat. Insya Alloh..

Getting Back on Literature with New Lens

H.G. Wells has brought my feet back to read English classic stories. To be more precise, The Invisible Man has led me to reembrace the pleasure of fiction. I wanted to avoid reading fictions because I have been shifting focus on reading books and articles about Islam. The choice was getting affirmative after I was experiencing severe heartbreak three months ago.

Any readings that relate to fiction and romance was on top of my to-be-avoided list sort of thing. Two months ago, my dear friend gave me a short story collection from Wilkie Collins but I didn’t resume reading it because of the reason.

Alhamdulilah (praise to God) that I have been recovering from the emotional turmoil. My emotion has stabilized and my health has returned to normalcy. I spent one month away from the city. I returned home in Karanganyar. I had a wonderful time with my family, extended family, neighbors, and friends.

Before I went back to Jakarta, I asked for my sister’s kindness to accompany me to visit Gramedia bookstore in Solo. I intended to only buy one book about Islam. I got the book. I couldn’t resist the temptation to not drop by the literature section. So, I went to the segment, precisely on the English classic. It was just my nature that I couldn’t shake it off. In any bookstores that I visit, I have to or I get to visit the literature section, particularly books on English Literature.

For your information, Gramedia bookstore is Indonesia’s largest local book chain. I find the bookstore is magical because it manages to survive. Besides the low reading rate in Indonesia, I sadly find more and more local bookstores close their branches. They rely on online marketing and sale.

Worse, I find fewer English fictions are sold in Gramedia. Back then, say in the 2000s, Gramedia still offered plenty of English fiction, including the classic ones. But now, it sells very few titles of fictions. In Surakarta, there is no Kinokuniya bookstore that I often visit in Jakarta.

Among the English classics are books by Jane Austen, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and H.G. Wells. I opened the first two pages of The Invisible Hands then I was glued at it. I didn’t need any reasons not to buy the book despite the fact my money was running out.

I was reading two books while I was on the train heading back to the capital. My heart was happy enjoying what The Invisible Man has in store for me. I won’t speak a lot about the book because I haven’t finished reading it.

In this post, I would instead focus on how I can’t stay away from what really fascinates me; literature. It always amazes me to know I get back to the theme again and again. There was also the time when I was leaving it for a while.

This time around, I return to literature with a fresher and stronger heart. I thank for Islam and all of my personal experiences that lead me to rejoice literature in a new light. It’s as simple as gratitude. I thank literature for making me back in good spirits, inspiring with creativity and filling up my spare hours with something productive.

In the digital era where distraction and disruption dominate our daily lives, reading physical books still wins the place in my heart.

Human Minds’ 1001 Battles: Lessons Learned from “The Red Badge of Courage”

The Red Badge of Courage (1895) is unlike many popular, high literature novels that I have read thus far. Full of symbol marks one significant attribute for this masterpiece written by Stephen Crane. That leads to the title of the novel itself that chooses red to symbolize bravery, one particular message that the author wishes to highlight.

I found it very hard to comprehend the novel back at early semester during university years in Yogyakarta. Our lecturer selected this story as reading material which quite shocked me as a pupil who didn’t get accustomed to reading heavy content as found in the book. Shortly put, I was completing reading the novel with one profound impression that has filled my mind until today.

The whole story presented me on internal struggle within the heart of the protagonist namely Henry Fleming, a young private of the Union Army who fled from the field of battle. The novel takes American Civil War as the background. Throughout the book, I was invited to witness Henry’s psychological change from cowardice to hero as the novel concluded.

Despite the fact I don’t really like this book, the main message and the protagonist impress me so much. Henry’s experiences resonate, I believe, struggles all human beings as long as they live. Not each of us fights in real war like Henry did. Inner war is so commonplace in each of our heart’s minds and hearts, whether or not we realize it.

Every day we make choices, some are essential ones. From what we are going to eat for lunch to deciding which next holiday destination, we are living our lives based upon choices. I call those instances as easy ones. There are far more difficult selections that we have to decide. As we grow older, we experience many events that leave us scars, unforgettable moments or heartbreaks.

Within split of seconds, all of sudden they come in and out when we take breaks after hectic days at work or in one of the delightful afternoons you always long for. This may cause some hesitate to simply contemplate with no particular thoughts in their minds. When go unnoticed, our minds can be dangerous. Like it or not, it’s a hard fact to accept most of can’t fully just.

Most of us (or all of us) find it hard to put everything at balance. We can get stuck in old memories most of the times. Past moments, good or bad, can drag our feet from moving on. Some can get too absorbed in the moment and forget what their future days will look like. Therefore, they spend too much money for short-time pleasant luxury or say hateful words to others upon trivial matters. They forget each of them may disadvantage them in the near term. On the other hand, some of us think too much about the future that they may neglect the future depends so much on their past and the present time.

As past, present and future can’t live without one another, our minds battle everyday to make choices. Good news is that we can train our minds to come out as a hero. We can be like Henry Fleming in our internal conflicts.

Whether or not you are religious, admitting that you need God for taking care of your minds is an efficient starter. That leads you to understand you don’t have to conquer the battle when all thoughts come rushing through your mind at the same time. That helps you to shift focus not to always win all of the battles when you can’t find peace.

As your relationship with God strengthens, you will easily find tranquility even when messy thoughts attack your mind. At least, you know how to get relaxed or take some seconds of rest. Don’t force yourself to make decisions when your minds aren’t at ease.

As you get used to that, you will come to the point where not all thoughts are worthy of following-up. You will get trained to filter thoughts that must be taken care of for the rest of your life. Sometimes you need to shake them off, as I quoted Taylor Swift’s hit song.

Doing those steps require long process and we may stumble upon them on a daily basis. That leads us back again to God’s help along the way. After our hard struggles within ourselves, we come to believe that what matters most in our life is very simple and concrete. Blurry, unnecessary thoughts, people’ harsh comments will no longer that much influential in our lives anymore. We will reach the point where we need to put forward our future in this world and the hereafter without forgetting what lessons the past teaches us and neglecting our current feelings.

That completely becomes our minute-to-minute or even second-to-second problem even for some of us. We have to start practicing prioritizing things that matter so much in our lives then stick to that. Get used to act like a spectator as you watch your mind battles; between negativity and positivism, complaint versus gratitude, past versus future and many more.

Take a seat, put your glasses on and eat popcorn. Enjoy how your mind wrestles then come out from the arena as a winner by returning to things or people that bring high importance in your life.