If it’s dark, turn on the light


Moments of awakening are what make life worth living.

Unfortunately, many and maybe even most people, either go through life without ever having any such moments or, if they do, they barely notice or remember.

That’s a real shame, and our society is largely to blame because an important truth is hidden away, in plain sight admittedly, but hidden. I reachied the age of twenty-two before this truth, which should have been obvious all along, was presented to me in the pages of a book. The revelation was simple: we are not as we should be. Human beings live their lives asleep. We walk and talk and work, shop and cook and drive and make love all while relatively speaking unconscious. We are asleep, throughout our lives, sleepwalking towards death.

“It isn’t easy, but it is worth it.”

It’s only a metaphor, yes, but all the more important and powerful for that.

That’s why all of my books are ‘about’ awakening – even if it may not immediately seem that way. The books appear to be ‘about’ a prehistoric tribe or a talking dog, a tennis-playing android or a journalist with a dubious knack for finding dead bodies. But they contain clues and snippets and suggestions which point towards that big idea, the one that matters so much but which even those who know it keep forgetting. (I titled one of my early novels ‘Lost In Thought’ not only because that’s the core of the adventure, but also because it’s the simple truth of the human condition. In one sense, I wanted a copy of the book, title prominent, sitting on my desk where I would see countless times during the day. It acts as a reminder.)

I don’t want to pile obtrusive ‘meaning’ into my books. Themes need to emerge naturally through the characters and events, embedded into the stories. That’s why so many of them are, in some way at least, ‘about’ consciousness. The theme of awakening is alluded to, like the famous zen finger pointing at the moon.

Awakening is the most important thing you can do in your life. It’s worth doing for your own sake, because those are the only moments when life is real. It’s worth doing for the sake of all of those around you, because it is like a flame or a fire, and it can spread and enrich the lives of others. And in these troubled times, when many people are wondering what they can and should do to prevent our civilisation being consumed by hate, prejudice, war, greed and corruption… awakening will help.

As the Chinese proverb goes: “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”

Or as Lao Tzu said: “If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself.”

We can’t fight darkness and win. But we don’t need to, because darkness cannot survive in the presence of light.

If each of us, in our daily lives can be a little more conscious, a little more awake, it will make a difference. If we all did it, the world would be tranformed. We can’t organise that or make it happen by wishing, because we can’t control others. And there’s a strong case for saying that we have no right to even try to control others.

All we can control is ourselves, and that alone is a super-human struggle. It isn’t easy, but it is worth it.


Pic: 'candle and darkness' by Arghadeep Chowdhury
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