Childhood is fleeting, an all-too-brief moment that flashes by and which you look back on across all the long years afterwards and wonder, did it happen at all? Did it all really happen the way I remember it, or did I imagine those moments when everything changed? Can you remember the day you learned that people can be prejudiced, that racism exists, that you are loved by the people around you? That while the people who love you will do everything in their power to protect you, they can't protect you from everything?
At least once a year I have to read To Kill a Mockingbird. I think it is time I come back to it again. Each time I discover something new, something I did not understand when I first read it. That is the way of books you have loved since childhood; they change, or perhaps more correctly, your perception of them changes, your perception of the truths laid before you has altered, grown past the innocence that kept you safe when you were little. You begin with the child's point of view, seeing the world through Scout's eyes, learning about justice and fairness and the difference between right and wrong, leaping into those petty rebellions against the things your parents tell you not to do. And then years later you look at it from Atticus' point of view, how he struggles to fight for what he believes is right, and how he is torn between the desire to teach his children about the world and the desire to protect them from it.
One of the (many) things I love most about literature is that it puts into words the ideas that have begun to take shape in my mind, and brings them into focus, into sharp relief. I will read something that makes me think, aha! this is just what I have believed all along, only this writer has said it better than I ever could have. It is both humbling and exhilarating, and it strikes deep into the heart of what literature is about, for me; the eternal truths of life brought to the surface of my mind.