Human intellect would break down without some answers, however self-deluding, to the perennial questions of ‘Who am I, where did I come from, where am I going, what is this all about and, perhaps most importantly, why?’
This is the story of a young seeker whose quest for self-discovery is propelled by his intense curiosity, creative imagination and sense of adventure. Each time he goes around a full circle he finds himself elevated on a spiral path reaching into uncertain heights. He meets living and life-like characters that accompany him on his journey. His mission takes him through uncharted territories that alternate between surreal dreamscapes, bone chilling heights and scorching wastelands.
Each section raises fundamental questions that we all need to have answered, whether we are casual readers or advanced academics. Many comfortable precepts are challenged, inviting the readers to open new windows into their own souls and to the world outside, where the shades of gray attain the colors of the rainbow in a new light.
There are elements of geography, history, cultural habits, philosophy, mythology and mysticism to stimulate the quest of the inquisitive minds.
Even though this book could best be classified as a philosophical adventure novel, the accounts are to some extent autobiographical. However, as is the case with any autobiography, the narrative is inevitably idealized to serve the author’s visions of how things should have or could have been. And, as is the case with many books of fiction, threads of the author’s own life story are interwoven in the fabric of the text.
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He looked up;
he saw the light
and heard the voice.
He chose to look down.
I’ve known him for as long as I can remember. We were inseparable, like one soul in two bodies, long before he was forced to abandon a life of high adventure, fame and fortune as an international entrepreneur, and settle for a subsistence-level existence at the very edge of dim uncertainties.
Few people know his real background. He is certainly not the only one to have gone through catastrophic transitions brought about by crippling accidents or disease, or as a result of life-shattering events. In order to survive, many have had to abandon life’s treasure troves in such storms. Some survive and recover from the ordeal and struggle along in the hope of regaining the lost glory. Others fail in their renewed efforts and succumb to bitter disappointments.
This was not the case for this man. At forty-something, he swam ashore with a smile and never looked back to see what he had left behind in the turbulent waves that nearly took his life. I, on the other hand, carried that burden for him. After all, I have been more than just a friend, I have been his shadow, his alter ego, you might say.
I remember our last hunting trip to
That mining claim made him a fortune. And, he was just as nonchalant when his fortunes were swept away a few years later in the tide of the revolution. That’s the way he was then, and is even to this day.
Those who knew him before would find it difficult to reconcile the scholarly gentleman now lecturing on philosophy, religion and geopolitics today, with that young swashbuckling adventurer admired and envied for his raw physical energy and business successes. But I knew even then that inside that no-nonsense pragmatic man with the nerves of steel was hidden an ocean of passion and tender emotions. Perhaps he kept his sensitive core well hidden in order to safeguard it against the merely casual or the simply curious. Or, perhaps, he felt that exposing his emotionally vulnerable spirit would prove too crippling for his image as a warrior-knight in the business world.
It was in a hot summer afternoon
that I sat with him in his humble home in a small town in rural
That day he had conducted another of his controversial lectures and, after two hours, had left the audience with more questions than answers.
Before I began, he interrupted, “I know, I know; I have heard their comments many times myself. When I talk about politics, they take me for an ultra liberal, until I criticize the liberals as even bigger hypocrites than most conservatives. When I discuss religion, they take me for an atheist, until I tell them that I believe without religion human society would not have evolved. They equate what they see as my self-assured confident demeanor with the wealth that I don’t have. They see a womanizing older playboy, which I am certainly not; not anymore, anyway. So, they wonder, Who’s this guy, what’s he all about?
“I remember the elegant
eighty-something lady a few years ago, who offered to take me on a cruise on her
yacht to her summer residence in
Of course, I do know very well who he is and what has made him what he is.
As I looked through a short stack of music CDs on the corner table, it didn’t surprise me that they were all Bruckner. He was an admirer of Anton Bruckner’s symphonic creations. And I knew why.
Bruckner respected and admired the time-honored musical traditions of his times. But he had stepped beyond Beethoven and Brahms, the gods he worshipped but chose not to emulate. Bruckner was known to have a profoundly mystical side, but unlike his younger contemporary Mahler, his music was never pretentiously esoteric.
He once commented that Bruckner reminded him of the Persian mystic-philosopher Hallaj, the one who proclaimed “I am the Truth”, while Mahler was to him Mowlana Rumi reincarnate.
I looked over at the calendar on his desk and reminded him that he had already crossed over the threshold of seventy. Once again, he didn’t wait for me to continue.
“Yes,” he said, “between our memories of the past and dreams of the future we all navigate. As the past stretches behind us, our future shortens ahead. That’s what makes us humans; having memories and dreaming ahead. For some, memories fade away, for others they become memoirs.
“It’s been said that one who has no story to tell hasn’t truly lived a life. But, you could ask, what is a story if it is never told? It is like a book that has never been written. Am I right?”
My response was, “Or, perhaps, a book that has been written but never read.”
He remained in deep thought for a long minute, his head tilted back and his eyes focused on something beyond the ceiling into the deep sky. He lowered his head slowly and nodded in a gesture of ambivalent approval. He then walked slowly over to the bookshelves that covered three walls of that large room, retrieved a thick manuscript in gray covers, and returned silently.
“Here, my friend, here is my story, and it remains open-ended with more questions than answers. Remember, when all your questions have found their answers, your quest ends and you join the living dead.”
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