Monday, April 24, 2006

Illusions by Richard Bach

Illusions by Richard Bach.

This is my first Richard Bach book. Yes, I have not read the Seagull book yet. Did I like the book? A definite "Yes"”. The first few pages are handwritten... a nice opening touch. The book is written in first person... that adds a personal touch. And yes, there is a book inside a book. Another fundoo gimmick. So full points for excellent composition of the book. Never gets boring.

Now coming to the content, Anand (of the anandanubhava fame) gave me the book with a caution that it is all about Maya. Maya means illusions. So I knew what to expect. Sometimes it felt like reading the screen play of Matrix. Some of the Neo-Mopheus dialogues looked so not-original after reading Richard-Donald dialogues regarding the 8 3/4 inch wrench. Here is what I liked about the book

>> Consistency. From the time Richard meets Donald till the end, even though Donald is the "“Guru"” it'’s a process of self learning. Richard asks a question and later comes up with the answer himself. Not once did the author take the easy approach of Donald telling the answer.

>> The biplane. Authors use many props to get their story across. Richard'’s knowledge about bi-planes seems to be in-depth and impresses people like me who can not still tell the difference between Richard'’s and Donald's planes... except that one does not need fuel to run :-)

>> The Messiah Handbook. Again, one of Richard'’s appropriately used magical prop. That which cannot be blended in with the rest of the book... that which can not be thought out by Richard himself appears magically in the handbook. Wish I had one...

>> Parts Left Unexplained. Some concepts are left unexplained... or at least I missed them. This is kind of good since you get to formulate your own theory. Many parallel universes, man shall have planets to live on as long as he wants them... and so on. He has left for the user to either believe it or not... If he believes it, then he has to formulate a theory by himself.

>> The ending. Everything in this book could be false.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Needless Pursuits

Please read the anandanubhava’s comment to my views on Alchemist here.

My reply being:

That exactly is my point. This book does not deserve the "original" adjective. But for that, it is a very gripping reading. Going some where, wanting something... and finally coming back to where you are was also taught to us by a fable which goes like this.

A mountain rat sees a king riding an elephant. People on both sides are throwing flowers at the king, which are all falling on the elephant. The rat thinks it would be very nice if it were king's elephant.

Immediately God turns it into that elephant, he enjoys the flowers. But soon realizes that the king is actually the boss. The elephant needs to go where the king tells him to go. So, elephant thinks it would be good if he were the king. Soon, the roles are changed and the rat takes form of the king.

As the king happily rides the elephant, there comes a point where the Sun is so strong that the king had to put his head down. Shameful he felt. Now he wanted to be the Sun so that he could look down up on the entire world. No body could look back at him. God obliged and made him the Sun.

Sun was shining brightly; just when a thick cloud was passing by and he could no longer torment the people below. Sun felt helpless and wished if he could be a cloud that could even block the rays of the Sun.

God was in a benevolent mood, and obliged. Immediately, cloud began flying every where under the sun smiling back at him as if to say "Sun, you are no longer the most powerful". As the cloud was following the Sun, there came a huge mountain and the cloud could no longer follow the sun. The cloud was hopelessly shattered and it started to melt down as rain.

Now the rat (which has taken the form of cloud) wished it were a huge mountain that could humiliate a mighty cloud. God turned it into a mountain. Mighty mountain crushed all clouds coming its way and was having the time of its life. Just then, a small rat bore a hole at the base of the mountain and started living there. Mountain could do nothing about it. Today there was one... and months later there were many many rats each one of them capable of boring a hole in the mountain.

Now the mountain wished it was a rat that could bore a hole in the mighty mountain. Suddenly it realized that it was a rat to begin with. It felt ashamed about its own pursuit of power from being a rat to an elephant, then the king, the sun, the cloud, the mountain and back to being a rat. It realized, God had been so good to it by turning it to what ever it wished only to teach this lesson. "Most of us already have what we search for all our life"

Very similar to "The Alchemist". Even in being a fable, it’s not original.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

I had heard that this is a great book. My friends who read that book were decent enough not to reveal the story line. I am not that decent. So if you have not read it, and do not want to know what it is all about, STOP here.

Alchemist is a person who can turn anything to gold. In the medieval ages, alchemy formed the ultimate goal of chemistry. Just like perpetual motion was(is) the holy grail of physicists. That apart, this book has very little to do with alchemy... Not even close. This is about choices you make invariably in his life. It is about those choices which you now think you should have made. Those choices you think you were forced to make, although it was your and only your conscious decision. It's all about "Listen to your heart" crap. But how much of it is practical. The boy (hero of the story) always chooses to do exactly what a practical logical person would do with the limited information he has already. Yes, the author knows the future and hence at the end of the book, even the reader may feel that all his decisions were the best. This reminds me of that episode of Seinfeld where George decides to exactly opposite of what his instincts tell him to do and as a result gets a job at the Yankees. But, in real life - would that ever work?

In the middle of the book he talks about understanding the "universal language of the world" - that language which animals also can understand. The Wind, the Water, the Sun, all speak this language. Some how, I can not digest that it was Paulo's creation. Such versions of universal language and being one with the five elements already existed in Hindu mythology. Pointers to Akashavaani (voices from sky), Divya dristi (ability to see past, present and future), Elements being portrayed as human beings all over the place in our culture. He has just adapted it into his story. Ironically the story is set in the deserts of Egypt, the land of Arabs. Right theory, wrong place.

The boy, Santiago, wanders in the desert for two years, goes through unbearable miseries and finally finds the treasure right below the tree where he had slept 2 years ago. In these two years, he learns a lot. He learns to speak Arabic, he learns to cross the desert, he learns about the culture at the oasis, he learns about the desert battles, he meets Fatima (love at first sight), he meets the alchemist who becomes his Guru (much like Karna met Parashurama) and what not. At the end he realizes that may be it was his destiny to do all those things and then... only the he would find the treasure. At regular intervals in the book, Santiago meets this person who seems to be GOD. Paulo carefully avoided calling him God even though he had supernatural powers of seeing the past and set things up for Santiago's future. May be he did this to make the book appealing to followers of religions that do not believe of GOD in human form.

Greatest book ever. Not at all. People who have some knowledge of the Hindu culture can not go past one chapter without getting a Deja-vu feeling about having read something like this before - although they were all in different books.