One evening last week, as I was reading Khaled Hosseini’s novel The Kite Runner, I paused at the end of a paragraph. That paragraph, I realized, had just given me exceptional pleasure. An aesthetic pleasure, to be sure, but no less keen for that.
Here is the paragraph, which depicts a winter morning in Kabul:
Here is what I do on the first day of snowfall every year: I step out of the house early in the morning, still in my pajamas, hugging my arms against the chill. I find the driveway, my father’s car, the walls, the trees, the rooftops, and the hills buried under a foot of snow. I smile. The sky is seamless and blue, the snow so white my eyes burn. I shovel a handful of the fresh snow into my mouth, listen to the muffled stillness broken only by the cawing of crows. I walk down the front steps, barefoot, and call for Hassan to come out and see.*
There are many reasons why a reader might relish this paragraph. My own enjoyment stemmed, in a general way, from the clarity, directness, and freshness of Hosseini’s prose. More specifically, it derived from Hosseini’s sensuous, evocative imagery, his deft handling of cadence, and his construction of an intimate narrative voice: that of a grown man tenderly recalling his childhood. Experiencing all those qualities and more, I experienced the complex pleasure they provided.
Yet, had I not paused, I might never have realized what I was experiencing. Almost certainly, I was thinking as I read, but thinking is not the same as realizing the experience one is having, an experience that includes but is not limited to thought. Understandably, much of our educational effort focuses on teaching students how to think, critically and conceptually. Far more rare, however, is systematic training in how to realize what one is experiencing. And toward that end, meditative practice can play an important, complementary role, not only in education but also in our everyday lives. (more…)