Categories, or rather water tight compartments of any kind have always confused me. Where does one boundary begin and where does the other end is something that eludes me.
This particular emotion is extended to my book reading sessions too.
Very recently, I found that 21st November is also the International Philosophy Day. Being a bibliophile my mind quickly started to index all the philosophy books I have read. And the Paulo Coelhos or Nietzsche of the world started to flood in. But peaking beyond these names were some unusual suspects.
Philosophy in books that were never meant for that category!
Misfits. The most unassuming titles have some of the deepest philosophies one can ever lay one’s eyes on.
For starters I am a big Harry Potter fan. I have been reading and re-reading these books for what seems like ages now. They flow in my blood quite literally. And whenever somebody asks me what is it that I love the most about them I am rather quick to reply, “Philosophy”. Of course the reaction on the other side is far from comprehension.
But he understood at last what Dumbledore had been trying to tell him. It was, he thought, the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena with your head held high. Some people, perhaps, would say that there was little to choose between the two ways, but Dumbledore knew — and so do I, thought Harry, with a rush of fierce pride, and so did my parents — that there was all the difference in the world.
For years I have sailed through worst and worst of situations by only recalling this quote. Isn’t really that the only difference between people? How deep that is.
I was sitting and thinking more then. What else or who else could fit into this bracket?
And yes, not far from me was sitting the book Sense of an Ending. It is a narrative and that too only of hundred and fifty pages, it speaks of things you and I never thing about. I took almost an hour and a half on a train journey to finish it but another two days and bit of google to completely comprehend it. It will shock you because (without giving any spoilers) it is a mockery of an intellectual or rather a ‘philosopher’.
How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but—mainly—to ourselves.
I had gooseflesh reading it. This quote haunts me in moments of deep forgery. Yes – forgery. There are so many times I am narrating an incident of my past and I suddenly realise I have already changed it to suit my sensibilities. We lie to ourselves, modifying the life story to suit our own ambitions our own viewpoints about ourselves.
And so this thought of finding philosophy in unassuming books caught my fancy more, I walked up to my bookshelf. I scanned a few rows to catch another work of such ‘paradoxical’ genre-defying nature in there.
Of course……. Rushdie. How can anyone forget him? For all future references he is and will always be my favorite author. In his book Midnight’s Children his idea of connecting children born at the stroke of midnight through telepathy is a device that not only reveals a lot of historical events but also basic life philosophies.
Even his scandal tainted book, Satanic Verses as per him was actually the philosophical side of being an immigrant in a foreign land, using the writing style of mystical realism.
What kind of idea are you? Are you the kind that compromises, does deals, accommodates itself to society, aims to find a niche, to survive; or are you the cussed, bloody-minded, ramrod-backed type of damnfool notion that would rather break than sway with the breeze? – The kind that will almost certainly, ninety-nine times out of hundred, be smashed to bits; but, the hundredth time, will change the world.
Yes, this quote is taken from his book Satanic Verses. Read it and then think about it from the perspective of life. Is it not true? Read the first line again, how beautiful it sounds, What kind of idea are you? Have you ever thought of yourself nothing but an idea? An idea which evolves, is dismissed, debated upon and in the end implemented half heartedly. I often ask the first question to my friends only to realise most of them have already stopped at the word idea. It is another revelation to them, another kind of an ‘idea’ to see themselves as one.
And taking cue from the last thought, what kind of an idea are you , is that not taken forward to books too? When you pick up a read off the thriller’s shelf does it occur to you that this book started with an idea. And perhaps that idea was never meant for a thriller to begin with! Then why this racism? Yes of course what else is it? Dividing them on the basis of genre is book crime!
Because remember, Sense of an Ending is called a psychological thriller and Midnight’s Children a mystical realism fiction novel. And Satanic Verses a blasphemy for Islam. No mention of philosophy whatsoever.
Books have for long been written for something and used for another.
And I personally find such surprises very heartwarming. Genres are alright to categorise books in a bookstore. But when it comes to actual reading there is no harm to celebrate all forms of books on International Philosophy day!
But if I were to ask you as to what books come to your mind when I mention the word philosophy, which ones would you suggest?