I’ve received various forms of blog accolades in recent weeks but today’s came in the form of a comment by a fellow blogger, Neurodrooling, following my post about Gregory David Roberts, author of my favourite book Shantaram.
A revolutionary who lost his ideals in heroin, a philosopher who lost his integrity in crime and a poet who lost his soul in a maximum security prison.
My post was about how I consider Roberts to be a little bit of a Hero. After all, how can you not love somebody who went from being a crack-addict bank robber to the author of something so beautifully philosophical that every sentence could be considered poetry?
But this comment came along and challenged my written views and I neurodrooled all over it.
Lover of Thoughts
I’m looking at the remaining copy of Shantaram on my bookshelf as I type this. I was independently given three copies by friends and a relative within a few months of its release, for reasons obvious to those who know my history.
I love the book and years after reading it still think back over parts of it often. Roberts is a fine writer and a great storyteller with a heck of a story to tell. A fair bit of Shantaram is fiction though and I think it was the A Million Little Pieces scandal that sunk the Shantaram movie. But whatever the facts of his torture accounts I think the insight Roberts offers into transcending such trauma is real and I can see why someone might embellish the details to try to communicate something like that.
But overall I don’t think he’s a standout philosopher. His moral consequentialist aspiration to reverse the second law of thermodynamics is particularly incoherent. There’s a lot of much better stuff in the incredibly deep and broad philosophical tradition of the subcontinent.
Why do I consider this an accolade when it’s contesting what I’ve written?
I just love that somebody I’ve never met has felt the desire to type out their thoughts in reaction to my words. I love that they’ve given me a pinch of insight into their world. I love that years after reading this book, even if what they took from it is something very different to me, it was significant to the both of us. I love that they made me google A Million Little Pieces and The Second Law of Thermodynamics. And I love that my debate brain cell is activated.
Lover of Words
This is one of the things I was hoping to get out of my blog; connecting with other minds that get kicks out of scholarly stimulation, hearing other peoples’ thoughts and being challenged on what I’ve written.
Debate can often be seen as a win or lose scenario; some people shy away from it for the fear of conflict and others enter into it with the unnecessary desire to “win”. And I guess in some situations and scenarios, those approaches are both true and relevant, but for me that’s not quite the beauty of it all.
For me, a successful debate concludes when both parties are transformed.
I’ve not done the research on this (yet), but from what I understand our minds form opinions on things in various ways and the three main ways are evolution, our society and our own personal experiences.
Evolution-based opinions are intrinsically formed in relation to our fight or flight instincts and there’s very little we can do to un-write them. Our society provides us with generalised views on anything from religion to politics to our moral code of ethics and this type of opinion is something we inherit from those around us.
And finally, our personal experiences. From the instant we are born we begin our journey through moments in time and these moments play a hugely important role in our mental programming. It’s almost like building a new website – the experiences we have, particularly in our childhood years, java script out our opinions based on what we feel we know to be true.
Unlike our evolutionary instincts, our opinions born of societal influence and personal experience can be unwritten, and this is where debate comes in. It challenges us to deliberate our own composition of thought, asks us to hold a mirror up against those values we’ve clung on to for many years and question whether or not we could be wrong.
It’s all about entering into a dialogue with an open mind and a hoping to being enlightened.
Lover of Wisdom
Neurodrooling’s comments were the perfect form of debate; opinionated but not harshly delivered and full of educational godliness. I’d heard about the A Million Little Pieces scandal but I knew nothing of it and as for The Second Law of Thermodynamics which is going to take more than opening a few Google tabs during a morning coffee break to get my head around.
Some of the discussion has given me homework, which I love. I’ll be trying to fathom the aforementioned theory as well as re-reading some parts of the book that have been criticised, just to reassess my own opinion on them. But what I am able to stand true to is my believe that Roberts is one of my Heroes.
Neurodrooling said that, to them, Roberts is not a standout philosopher, which I guess comes down to our own individual interpretations of that word in particular and its undertone.
Personally, I take the Ancient Greek original explanation, which is lover of wisdom, and I think Roberts is exactly that. The experiences he writes about, how he used his vivid imagination to embellish a true story and his ability to create something that either in part, or in its totality, resonates so strongly with others that they can recall its messages years after reading are, for me, all products of that wisdom.
I described him as teaching me everything I need to know on the philosophy of Love and by that I didn’t just mean romantic love which may be the first thing that pops into your head. What I meant was the love for wisdom itself, expressed through our world of words, expression, introspection, spirituality and each other. What he continues to do throughout his story is show great appreciation for the wisdom in others, particularly in Karla and Khaderbai, and that in itself is a great philosophy.
And on a final note, if you look beyond the words and beyond the paper pages of the book, his special mélange of what’s generally considered fact and fiction may actually be closer to truth than many of us know…