Publication Year: 2009
Tags: New Age, Philosophical, Metaphor
Jamie Forbes, flying his own small plane, hears a cry for help over the private pilots’ com channel — a woman in another small plane whose pilot husband has collapsed. Jamie talks her down to a safe landing, where she tells reporters that he “hypnotized” her into believing that she could land the plane on her own. Considering this idea later, Jamie recalls a time when he was hypnotized by a stage performer, and he begins to discover that hypnotism is a form of believing that what is suggested to you as real… and that perhaps all of life is the same. Are we, he wonders, “hypnotized” into accepting this world as real… and is it, in fact, as real as we believe it to be?
The book is chock-a-block with affirmations, which are presented with the idea that hypnosis is a form of suggestion that works, in part, because of the way that the suggestion is made. To that end, he offers such ideas as I am a perfect expression of a perfect Life, here and now and I shall remember that I created this world, that I can change and improve it by my own suggestion whenever I wish. Some are just good sense, such as People shall be as kind to me as I am to them. Cynics among us will remember that careful scientific research has proven that affirmations “don’t work”, since a mere change in attitude is largely unsustainable. It’s also been proven (as I’ve noted in other reviews and essays) that words create perception, and perception creates reality. Try Jamie Lee Curtis’ trick: Instead of saying “I have to go do such-and-such”, try “I get to…” Saying “I get to have a prostate biopsy” doesn’t sound fun, but the wording makes it a choice rather than an obligation.
Richard Bach is, for many, a purveyor of tales that require some getting used to. His most famous tales from earlier days, such as Jonathan Livingston Seagull and one of my personal favorites Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, are well-written and engaging. Later stories from The Ferret Chronicles are absolute delights. Somewhere in the course of things from there to here, Bach seems to have adopted a kind of stream-of-consciousness approach that, in several places, abandons any sense of linguistic construct or common grammar. Call me stodgy, but I’d really rather he hadn’t.
The tale itself is a story told in other Bach books, with a slightly different hook. I hope that I never adopt the glib attitude of, “Read one of Bach’s books, you’ve read them all”, because that is patently untrue. However, he does run through this particular theme frequently. Throughout Bach’s literary contributions is the story of the lead character undergoing psychic, philosophical, spiritual change, and as a result, the lead character thus experiences a change in his life in a most fundamental fashion. It is a retelling of a description of Zen enlightenment: Before enlightenment, we are bound to this world; during enlightenment, we have almost no connection to this world; after enlightenment, we are back in this world… except walking a few inches above the ground.
I don’t believe it to be a spoiler if I tell that our main character, Jamie, goes through a similar sort of enlightenment; from the blurb on the back of the book, we read that this enlightenment takes the form of realizing what hypnosis is, and how it works. The story takes us through the steps needed to understand Jaime’s deeper and more philosophical discoveries as he takes this idea of hypnosis and extends it quite literally into every facet of life. There is little to no plot, in any formal sense, but the purpose of the book is to be more metaphor and philosophical consideration than story, and this it accomplishes quite well.
There is much to praise in this book; it’s worth your time. I just wish that Bach hadn’t been quite so quick to abandon linearity of sentence structure as he strove to set us free from false linearity of thought. Apart from this vaguely irritating artistic license, the concepts presented are quite interesting. After nearly forty years, the seagull returns to explain it all in a slightly different way — and it’s a story that we really don’t get tired of.
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