Eight years have passed since I read this book for the first time. A neighbour from across the hall recommended it during a dinner party, and I was intrigued by the title. I was not sure what to expect, so I was delighted as I read it and found an interesting and easy to read story. Then I put it away on my bookshelf.
Then I found it again recently. Or maybe it found me. I re-read it. And this time I looked at it with new eyes. Maybe it was my bad memory; maybe I have changed a lot in the last eight years. Either way, this time I was more interested in the story that is written between the lines.
The main story is pretty straight forward. A highly trained gymnast called Dan walks into a petrol station one night, finds a strange old man inside serving him, and as he turns away from the station, he realises that this old man jumped from the floor to the roof of the station in seconds. Intrigued, he pesters the old man (his name is Socrates) for the secret of such pirouette. Even he, a trained gymnast with gruelling daily routines, could not think of a way to do such a jump. The book then takes us through several years of Socrates teaching Dan about the Way of the Peaceful warrior, a code by which to live and be more fulfilled.
Within this story there is a self-help book, in plain sight. As Socrates teaches Dan, he teached me too. This time, though, I paid notice. I took notes. I actively reflected on what I was reading. I made some changes in real life. And then put it away, as a reference book rather than just as another story I had enjoyed.
I encourage you to read it. It may give you some insights too. To wet your appetite, I have chosen a couple of excerpts that I found particularly interesting.
The world was peopled with minds, whirling faster than any wind, in search of distraction and escape from the predicament of change, the dilemma of life and death–seeking purpose, security, enjoyment; trying to make sense of the mystery. Everyone everywhere lived a confused, bitter search. Reality never matched their dreams; happiness was just around the comer–a corner they never turned.
And the source of it all was the human mind.
“Dan, you are suffering; you do not fundamentally enjoy your life. Your entertainments, your playful affairs, and even your gymnastics are temporary ways to distract you from your underlying sense of fear.”
“Wait a minute, Soc.” I was irritated. “Are you saying that gymnastics and sex and movies are bad?”
“Not inherently. But for you they’re addictions, not enjoyments. You use them to distract you from what you know you should do: break free.”
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