Every few months I am revisited by a strong desire (and a solemn self promise) to write a book. The subject varies over the span of years and time and so does the genre. Once it is a novella or simply speaking fiction, once a quasi philosophical reflections and memoirs (thanks god that is seldom) and sometimes simply a series of essays on “this and that”. Having been around for a relatively long time (and hoping to be for a quite a bit more) I am well aware that a book seldom changes a world (probably never, although readers of Bible and Koran would dispute it), even less an individual. Despite many false claims to the contrary. Singular events seldom do that to us – life over its course does that much better. But it is hard to remember entire life, so we cling to the most vivid and cherished (or traumatized) single events. But unless you are in perpetual state of shock – that event is just one of many that constantly re-shapes you. Hence, that book of mine will most likely remain where it is: a pigment of neurotic imagination.
There is so many books already written. So many wonderfully uplifting or sorrowful stories passed on to us by generations of gifted writers or storytellers – a lifetime is too short to read them all. Specially if you are busy with making a meager living and earning your sustenance and choose not to be a clochard living under the bridge. But what infuriates me, upsets me mostly is the fact that there is so many books that should have never been written. Or to be more precise – should not have enjoyed the degree of success they have achieved. Books-lies, books-pretentious nothingness, books-cheap advises, books-false prophesies and at last but not least: bad books.
And I am not placing in that category by any means an entertaining, non-intellectual books. Heaven’s forbid – a good entertainment is a very valid reason to write and read a book. Most of works by Balzac, London, Cristie, Koontz and Rice and countless others would have never appeared if there wasn’t a genuine need for a relaxing, suspensful or intriguing stories. But they never claimed to be more than what they were. “Taming of the screw” wasn’t treated by Shakespeare as another “Hamlet”. A good comedy does have “between the lines” messages and sublime subcontexts – but nothing kills as surely as boring dissertation, which digs for such subcontexts while forgetting the entire context.
For some years now we are being deluged by hundreds of good meaning mantras and “messages” from quasi Eastern “gurus” and their Western surrogates. These people with their shrewd editors believe that they have such a profound wisdom and need to share it with others, that they do it and write a book to achieve it. And sometime they strike a gold and fulfill their fantasy – at least monetary one. Smart publishers and helping hands from public personalities (talk shows stars and so on) impress into the minds of poor people that such a book maybe a key to their happiness. Sometime ago a friend of mine asked me if I read such a book of a writer who happens to live in the same building (or have an apartment in the same building) as he. I have heard of the name but never read that book. As books could be pleasant subject of a discussion, I have attempted to read it. Could not go past quarter of it. Cliche after cliche, hardly an original thought, philosophyising instead of philosophy, popular folk wisdom dressed in semi-literary words. In short a pastiche of a sermon with a side dressing of empathy and hope. But sermons hardly lasts longer than twenty minutes. That book just refused to end. So a word of advice – if you are looking for wisdom – beware of flashy publicity adds, tv talk show endorsements. Go to a public library and find some copies of Plato, Socrates, maybe de Cartes, if you have some philosophical background than modern greats as Ingarten, Wittgenstein – at least you will be intelectually stimulated without easy answers, or reach to religious thinkers: St. Augustin, St. Thomas or Persian Rumi or Chinese Zen. But look not for a dogma or easy answers. Look for questions or possible explanations of meaning.
I searched for God among the Christians and on the Cross and therein I found Him not.
I went into the ancient temples of idolatry; no trace of Him was there.
I entered the mountain cave of Hira and then went as far as Qandhar but God I found not.
With set purpose I fared to the summit of Mount Caucasus and found there only ‘anqa’s habitation.
Then I directed my search to the Kaaba, the resort of old and young; God was not there even.
Turning to philosophy I inquired about him from ibn Sina but found Him not within his range.
I fared then to the scene of the Prophet’s experience of a great divine manifestation only a “two bow-lengths’ distance from him” but God was not there even in that exalted court.
Finally, I looked into my own heart and there I saw Him; He was nowhere else.
by Rumi, Anatolia, XIII century