I think I’ve figured it out.
No, not the meaning to life, the universe, and everything. That’s been done.
The reason I prefer fiction to nonfiction.
I’m not very fond of things like biographies. I used to wonder if that meant I didn’t care about people enough. I even kind of worried about it sometimes. But now I think it’s because I do care.
When I take those spiritual gifts tests, I score highest in mercy giving and serving. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, this is the one we used one year at church camp. I highly recommend it; I learned a lot about myself that week.) Basically, this means I want to fix everything for everybody by making tea and giving hugs.
Unfortunately, the world doesn’t work that way. Nor is such a response always appropriate. I do realize that, but I don’t like it.
Caring about people when I can’t do anything to fix things is hard. I think this is my problem with biographies and the like. People have problems. And I can’t do a thing about it. I can’t even give them a sympathetic smile, much less make tea and give hugs.
This is probably also why if I absolutely have to watch sports, I end up rooting (in the loosest sense of the word) for whichever team is losing. (Unless the Cardinals are playing. But that’s for a very specific reason.) I remember some football game that I suffered through where the team everyone around me was rooting for won. But the camera caught a glimpse of a guy from the other team looking really sad, and it made me sad and uncomfortable.
That’s a frivolous example, but it extends to more serious things, too.
On the other hand, I generally love fiction that makes me sad. Most of my favorite books, movies, Doctor Who episodes, etc. make me cry. I seek them out. It’s the complete opposite response. Why?
Because no matter how heartbreaking it is, somewhere deep inside is the knowledge that it’s not real. I can’t fix things for these people, but I don’t need to because they don’t actually exist. It’s kind of liberating.
It’s not that I want to stop caring about real people or helping real people. But that’s why I gravitate toward fiction when I’m looking for relaxation.