What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.
“It is wrong to think that Love comes from long companionship or persevering courtship. Love is the offspring of a spiritual affinity and unless that affinity is created in a MOMENT it will not be created in years or even generations.” — Kahlil Gibran, from The Broken Wings
Have you even been in love? Horrible, isn’t it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens your heart and it means that someone can get up inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses. You build up this whole armor, for years, so nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life. You give them a piece of you. They don’t ask for it. They do something dumb one day like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn’t your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness so a simple phrase like ‘Maybe we should just be friends’ or ‘How very perceptive’ turns into a glass splinter working it’s way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It’s a soul-hurt, a body-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. Nothing should be able to do that. Especially not love. I hate love.
In contrast, neurotic or unhealthy perfectionists set unrealistic goals. They work hard, not to please or to challenge themselves but to avoid failure. Instead of delighting in challenges, they feel drained or depressed when they attempt new ones. They often have low self-esteem and are sensitive to criticism from parents and teachers. They believe that their parents expect them to be perfect, even if the parents have never expressed this expectation. Mistakes or failures humiliate and embarrass neurotic perfectionists. Fear of making mistakes causes never-ending anxiety and worry, which can lead to additional emotional and social problems.
There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other involves orcs.