The Road Less Taken: If Books Could Talk

Most of us know the feeling of getting lost in a good story: the experience when a character etches itself so deeply into our psyche that we think about their stories long after the book is finished.

Neuroscientists claim that we can actually improve our empathic response by reading fiction. When we experience other people’s lives – regardless of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, culture or profession – we unconsciously put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, and this improves empathy.

Everyone has a book in them
But what if books could talk? This is the experience you get at the Human Library in Copenhagen, which is located at Nørre Allé 7 in Nørrebo.

Founded in Copenhagen in 2000, it now has a presence in over 80 countries worldwide, and I had wanted to visit for some time. Denmark has been voted one of the happiest countries in the world for over 40 years in a row, and one of the reasons is its focus on empathy in parenting and education. This affects the whole society positively.

The human library is a good example of how it works to exercise empathy at any age. It provides a rare opportunity to check out real people’s stories and engage in dialogue that you may never have had the opportunity or courage to do otherwise. The volunteers are – literally – open books.

Many have already booked out
I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived. There was a blackboard on the wall with ‘today’s books’ written in white. The list included ‘Child Bride’, ‘Paranoid Schizophrenic’, ‘Giving Up a Child’, ‘OCD’ and several others.

Many of the titles had an asterisk next to their name, which meant the book had already been checked out. I could see people paired up on benches and chairs ‘reading’ their books intently.

It is possible to check out a title for 30 minutes and ask them anything you want to know. Like any novel you decide to invest time in and read, I wasn’t sure which one to pick. The books, as they are referred to, walk back and forth wearing black t-shirts that say “Unjudge someone” on the front and “Human Library” on the back.

Read them like a book…or not
Several hours and five life stories later, I left the library feeling open and fulfilled in a way that is hard to describe. I took a long walk to digest what I had learned and to consider the concept.

The reality is that so much of our lives are consumed through our social media. These often act as echo chambers, echoing back to us our already held values ​​and beliefs. They confirm our confirmation biases rather than exposing us to new ideas to help us come to new conclusions about people.

If you want to improve your ability to empathize this year, I highly recommend checking out the Human Library. Perhaps the biggest plot twist for me wasn’t about the stories themselves, but how much I had misunderstood going into them.

I guess the lesson is the classic saying “You can’t judge a book by its cover”.

Source: The Nordic Page




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