The first time I read The Lord of The Rings I must have been about 12 years old. I adored it! Absolutely fell in love with it!
Since then, I've kept coming back to re-read it every few years. And each time I do something new leaps out at me and captures my imagination. Each time I approach this well-loved piece of literature, I find something new to delight my soul.
It's not that the story has changed, but that I have. I've changed. I've grown. And my experience of life has increased with the passing years.
The things which spoke most deeply to me as a young teenager were different from the things that moved me as a newly-wed. What caught my attention when I was a first-time mum was different from what engaged me after my husband walked out. My most recent excursion into its wonder, happily married and with 3 fantastic sons, was different again.
Over the years I came to realise an important truth: what we get out of a book depends greatly upon what we have to bring to it.
But this truth has far greater implications than our enjoyment of a good (or even great!) book. It stays true in all aspects of our life. What we take away from an experience depends greatly on what we have brought to it.
This reality came to mind recently when I was involved in an online 'discussion' over a particular post. As is often the case, there'd been a fair few comments posted of the "I'm right, you're wrong" variety.
I was getting a bit riled by one chap in particular, so I stopped to get some perspective and re-assess my motives for engaging.
And it occurred to me that we were all behaving like the blind men with the elephant. Each of us was reading the author's work according to our own particular bias and understanding. We had each approached the article bearing our own life experience - holding tightly to the things that were important to us.
We'd all read the same words... and yet what we read differed greatly depending on what we'd brought to them. We were feeling different parts of the elephant and declaring our own piece to be the only correct view.
It's probably a good thing to keep in mind. We all have the tendency to think that our own experience or understanding is universal. Many times it's simply out of ignorance - I don't know what I don't know.
But when we fail to stop and consider the possibility that someone else just might be seeing something we can't, we not only invalidate the other person's reality, but we rob ourselves of the opportunity to enlarge our own awareness.