LITERATURE

DEFINITION

Literature

Creative writing of recognized artistic value


We all read books from time to time. Some of us read constantly, others maybe just pick up a book at the airport. We read trashy sex novels, crime novels, scientific books, religious books, self-help books. In fact there are so many authors and different styles available that it is hard to know where to start!

I would like to begin this conversation with you by saying that it doesn’t matter what types of books you read or whether some stuffy intellectual or critic thinks that what you are reading is of no artistic value, or isn’t “serious” reading.

What matters is that books are one of the best ways to see into someone else’s imagination, and to have that imagination in some small way inspire us.

Of course, some books inspire us more than others.

When people read the koran (the sacred writings of islam revealed by god to the prophet muhammad during his life at mecca and medina) or the upanishads (a later sacred text of hinduism of a mystical nature dealing with metaphysical questions) or the bible (the sacred writings of the christian religions), those who read them are sometimes inspired to change their lives, and follow a religion. Others such as self-help books tackle specific topics that people want answers to in their personal lives. Scientific books inspire children to want to learn more about biology or chemistry, and others just entertain.
They all have their own place, and I think that books are tremendously important. More so than even the most educational television will ever be.

I remember reading a children’s fantasy novel recently, and then going to see the film. I was so disappointed! I had imagined the main character as someone who looked and spoke so differently. I had imagined the land where it took place as something not at all like that presented on the screen. And the reason was that it was the director’s imagination I was seeing.

The book had allowed me to construct my own view of how everything would look. It allowed me to use my own imagination.

Questioning the unquestionable

What we must remember, is that books present a view, not the absolute, and I am sure I will get into serious trouble with all the major religions of the world for saying this, but books can never present absolute truth, for they are the word of another.
“How dare you deny the word of god! You will burn in hell!” I hear people screaming.

And maybe I will, but is that your view, or the view of the book you read that said I would? You see, with all books, whether they be “sacred” and unquestionable, or just an opinion, they all demand to be questioned. That is why I ask each and everyone of you to question everything I write here.

If sacred books are the word of the one true god, then surely he would expect that you ask questions? No compassionate god would be so presumptuous that everyone just followed everything he said, would he? That is why I offer my apologies to all who have chosen to be offended by what I have just said, but also ask you to place the question: “How can someone else tell you truth?” in the back of your mind.

Surely truth is something you discover for yourself, even if it eventually coincides with the writings. At least you will have verified what has been said to your own satisfaction, and gained true insight into the nature of all things, rather than repeating words written many years ago.

Now I find myself having to write about this topic very carefully. Why? Because talking about “sacred” books where the word of god is unquestionable makes me feel a little uneasy. You see, it is not that I deny god in whatever shape or form you choose to envisage him, nor do I deny the value of the teachings. In fact, in every book from the koran to the bible, the word of god seems to coincide with most of what I hold to be my most precious values. Truth, honesty, compassion, love, understanding; and whilst I am not here to question any of these “sacred” writings, all I ask people to do with any book is to question it.
Now there is no denying that it is wrong to steal or that it is wrong to kill, I just want to find out why, in my own mind. Do you understand where I am coming from?

I know that greed is a terrible disease that afflicts so many of us. The sacred writings talk of it, but I just want to explore it to my own satisfaction so I actually understand what it means to be greedy with my whole being. If I just repeated it from a book, I would see that yes, greed was bad and god said it was bad, and then just carry on with my life.

How many people attend mosques, churches and temples, and pray to god every day, reciting extracts from the books, and listening to teachings about how greed is bad, and then close up their books and return to a capitalist consumer lifestyle?

How many people in the world read from the “sacred” books about how killing another is wrong, and then return to their daily business of war and violence? How many times have I heard western politicians talk about god, and the bible, before sending in their troops to other countries to kill and maim their people, and then talk about having god on their side?

Unfortunately, this has been seen before, during the crusades (any of the more or less continuous military expeditions in the 11th to 13th centuries when christian powers of europe tried to recapture the holy land from the muslims), and so it is little wonder that the muslim people are more than a little upset about the most recent incursion.

How can they use these great books to justify killing people? I cannot understand it, anymore than I can understand certain parts of the muslim faith, where they advocate killing all infidels and using the great words of the koran to back them up. No. These are not religious people. They use the most powerful book ever written to back up political, and extremist ideology, in order to control the people.

The fact they use the “unquestionable” word of god as their backup, just makes it all the harder for people to say that what they were doing was wrong. But the killing of any man, woman or child falls way short of what it is to live with compassion, and love for your brother, whether it is a muslim brother, a christian brother, a hindu brother, or even an atheist brother.

We are all creatures of the world, whatever religion we believe in, and using these texts to back up murder, rape, greed, power and torture is the greatest sacrilege (blasphemous behaviour; the act of depriving something of its sacred character).

We must not allow people who are determined to use these texts for their own advantage and personal gain to continue to do so. We must help them understand that what they are doing is not the will of god. If you believe that god created the earth in all its abundance and beauty, why would he give licence to a few powerful people to go around causing mayhem, and destroying everything he had created?

It is with great sadness that I watch television reports of people being killed by soldiers anywhere, and how they casually drop bombs on people, their homes, and their villages, and destroy the trees, and the grass, and the animals who inhabit it. For what, to prove they are right? To carry out god’s will? Surely god would not allow Man to create such suffering for, who are, in effect, all gods children.

It is with greater sadness that I see people with bombs strapped to their bodies, ready to die for a greater cause, reciting words from their sacred texts, before blowing their perfect human bodies into pieces along with anyone that is close. No, this is Man’s work, god did not sanction this.

So I do not ask you to question the word of god. I ask you to question yourselves. I ask you to question your religious leaders. I ask you to question your political leaders. I ask you to question everyone you meet – for it is only through these questions you will find truth. I decided to ask the president (you know which one) about his beliefs.

Me: Excuse me mister president, is there a reason you are callously killing lots of civilians in iraq?

Him: Well, we are trying to bring them freedom.

Me: So, it wouldn’t have anything to do with your christian beliefs?

Him: No, but the lord guides me in my work.

Me: So god told you to kill the muslims, is that what you are saying?

Him: Now you’re putting words in my mouth.

Me: Isn’t freedom something you discover for yourself?

Him: No, we are freeing these people from tyranny and oppression!

Me: So, what you are saying is, that you are these peoples saviour?

Him: If you want to put it like that, yes we are, we are saving them.

Me: Who told you to save them? And what are you saving them from?

Him: I told you, tyranny and oppression! (angrily)

Me: So you don’t want to convert them to christianity? You did say that the lord guides your actions.

Him: No I do not want to convert anyone, just save them.

Me: So is there a passage in your sacred book that justifies your actions?

Him: Actually no, it was the united nations who sanctioned this, although there is one passage…

Me: Thanks, I think I’ve heard enough.

Whenever people need to refer to a “sacred text” to give them more moral authority than others, you can be sure they are going to want us to go along with something that the texts probably forbids anyway! They just twist it to their own advantage.
So can you see why questioning these people is important?

Hopefully the people who carry out this behaviour in the name of “god,” will finally get the insight into themselves, and what they are doing, and start acting with compassion and loving kindness, to all on this planet and beyond.
So read all you can, but question what you read, and try see it from another viewpoint.

If you are a christian, read the koran, if you are a hindu, read the bible, do you see what I am saying? In order to reach our own truth, which is the indivisible, we must gain insight. And to gain insight, we must question even the unquestionable.

In doing so we are not denying it, nor are we saying it isn’t the way, we are merely opening our minds to possibilities. And if you are trying to find the divine, your mind is a great place to start. Open it, and allow compassion to be your guide in your exploration.

Inspiration

  • Arousal of the mind to special unusual activity or creativity
  • A product of your creative thinking and work
  • A sudden intuition as part of solving a problem
  • (theology) a special influence of a divinity on the minds of human beings

So, literature of all kinds can inspire the most heated of debates, as we have seen in the previous paragraphs, and can inspire us to do the most wonderful, or terrible things to each other. But inspiration is not all about what you have read.
I have read widely, on every kind of topic imaginable, but the inspiration to write this book was sparked by a person (my ex-wife to be exact), although she didn’t know it at the time, and neither did I. Whether it was something she said, or something she did, I don’t know, but from that moment my mind started to work more creatively. Then I read more on topics I suddenly developed an interest in, which sparked more interest, and inspired me to change my life. I then started to observe people, and nature, and finally myself, which gave me more inspiration. Soon it was becoming all too much for my little brain to take, so I started to write it all down. And gradually, the more I was inspired to look at something, or talk to someone about something, the more insight I got, and the more inspired I became. It was like a self-reinforcing loop that became stronger every day.

Suddenly I had written 500 pages, and I couldn’t even remember exactly how I had started it, or even why! Let’s just leave it at “I was inspired to write it” without trying to sound too mystical!

Some people are inspired by great poets, athletes, politicians, religious leaders or scientists to start something wonderful in their lives, but however the inspiration starts, it’s like feeding an eternal flame that just won’t extinguish. I only hope you all get to experience what I have felt from writing this book, and find your own inspiration in life. Whether this inspiration is from the divine, from your own mind, from nature or from another human being, it doesn’t really matter.

We are a truly unique species, living in a wonderful universe, so full of mystery and beauty, and it keeps begging to be asked questions. “Who am I? Where am I?”

I hope you all find the inspiration to ask, and find out answers. But don’t keep them to yourselves, share them with others, share them with your friends, your families, believers and non-believers. All should get a chance to explore what you have discovered. You never know, it may inspire others. I hope that one small section of what I have written in this book helps you to find some inspiration. But if it doesn’t, don’t worry. After all, this is just one book in a sea of millions!

But I have to put all this inspiration into perspective in the universe. The contents of all of my inspiration fit on a single, tiny, microchip! This huge book, with all of my fears, my addictions, my successes, my discoveries, my joy, and my sadness, my insight and my lack of it; I have emptied my mind into this book; there is no stone unturned, nothing you do not know about me. I have opened up my entire life to you – all 38 years of it. You know all my stories, my opinions, all my jokes, all my ex-girlfriends, and my family.

There is nothing left to tell. But all of it can fit on something so small, I can put it inside my wallet. That should give you something to think about!

Never stop being inspired. I won’t.


by alan macmillan orr

‘the natural mind – waking up’

2009

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