When I walk out of a theater after watching a wonderful movie where good and love triumph, I feel inspired. Perhaps it’s simply the story, whether derring-do or comedy or noir. Or music. Or the cinematography. Often it’s the acting. When I was young, I’d walk down the street after seeing such a movie and think I can do those things. I’d imagine myself beating up the bad guys, taking a hill with a company of marines, finding the magic in the secret cave.
Now I walk out of such movies thinking that I can do my things, whatever my goals may be.
I feel that way when I finish well-written books. Somehow the book or the movie works as a spell and unlocks dreams and abilities and willpower I didn’t know I had. (Or that had gone dormant.) Sometimes they work more like a confidence potion or maybe an angel’s gift. At some level, I suppose, it’s all just a fantasy. There are times, though, when I see differences in my life. Usually, an infusion of energy or a renewed devotion to a long-time project.
I often wonder how many others feel this way after seeing a movie or reading a book. Reading gurus have many theories about the impact of a good story. I don’t have any theories that I know of because having them seems to jinx the whole business. If your theory is that watching a certain movie or reading a certain book is going to turn you into a god or an avatar, then forget it. But, if you don’t think that, you may well be transformed.
As I read this week about a religious pilgrimage that occurred many years ago in the kingdom of Sikkim (now part of India) I find myself thinking more positively about myself and the world than usual even though I have no desire to go there and follow the seeker’s paths. For one thing, I don’t have the patience to spend hours in meditation. I never have. I know I should do it, but I don’t. All that seems so cumbersome to me. But reading about the journey and the seeker’s devotion seems to change me for the better.
And, the book and the movie only cost a few dollars. What a bargain!
Subconsciously, maybe all of us know that in addition to the escapist fun of reading a great novel or seeing a wonderful movie, we will be changed for the better by the experience. I read for the fun of it, not as a spiritual practice. But when I put the book down, I realize I’m a different person than the one who picked up the book.
Perhaps this happens to you as well.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Widely Scattered Ghosts,” a new collection of short stories from Thomas-Jacob Publishing.