You may share an experience I often have: I enter a room where friends are engaged in a spirited conversation about someone and try to guess who it is that they are describing. If I succeed, it’s usually because they are referencing words or actions that I recognize as familiar. These words and actions form a pattern that I associate with a particular person.
Odysseus wants nothing more than to get home. For the Greeks, as for
most ancient peoples, the house and city were islands of order in the
midst of a howling wilderness. They would do anything to stay home or,
having left, to get back.
Aron Ralston knew he would die before the next morning’s sunrise. Five days earlier he’d been walking a trail in a narrow desert canyon in Utah and had climbed down from a large chockstone along his route. A chockstone is a huge boulder that’s wedged between other stones or canyon walls. This one may have been there for hundreds of years, but when Ralston came down, he somehow loosened the boulder, and it fell on him.
The life situation of the reader provides a lens through which a text is read. Or, to change the metaphor, the life situation provides the magnet, which draws from a text whatever most clearly addresses the reader. For the same reader the same text may, under different circumstances, console or correct or convict or enlighten or inspire.