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Sunday, 15 December 2013

A Tale of Two Deserts

A Tale of Two Deserts, which carries the sub-title, Enigmatic Christmas Fables for the Modern Age, is the fourth of my Christmas books. Here I want to explain how I came to write it and its relevance to contemporary civilisation.

I began this work in December 2012 and I actually wrote first, the second story in this book, the one that is called Another Desert. And at that point in time I had no intention of writing what eventually emerged as A Tale of Two Deserts, being only concerned to write a story that moved beyond my previous Christmas tales, which are all based on Father Christmas. Once more I was experimenting with writing a different type of story, one somewhat strange in character, but which makes a powerful point about contemporary civilisation.

Just before starting this book, I had read Arthur Koestler’s thought provoking book, The Sleepwalkers, which is a history of man’s changing vision of the universe, starting in ancient times and ending with Newton. It is a well researched book that debunks a lot of the myths that have developed around people such as Copernicus and Galileo. And is was with Galileo’s words “yet it moves” in mind – those words that people believe Galileo uttered at his trial, but actually did not – that I set about turning these words around and back on the modern scientist. Thus I began writing what was to become the tale Another Desert. And the phrase I dropped into the story was “Yet they watch”, and what the tale does is demonstrate the ridiculously stupid beliefs of many modern scientists as well as exposing how in fact they operate. You can observe in the story, why simultaneously so smart yet so dumb. If you read my blog entry from a few weeks past (The God Delusion or The Science Delusion?), you will recognise that the story is very much related to matters covered in that blog, although at Christmas 2012, I was not aware that The God Delusion book well illustrates the points I was trying to make in Another Desert.

I can say here also that Another Desert is strongly linked to the theme of another book, Encounter with a Wise Man, building on this by exploring in more detail the damaging attitudes of scientists that are mentioned in Encounter with a Wise Man.

My writing of Another Desert was interrupted just before Christmas 2012, when my elderly mother died, and you can see this sad event reflected in the story. And there it lay for several weeks untouched, but in early February a change took place, for I became fascinated with answering the question that I had posed, about exactly what I was able to do as a writer. A vague idea of writing two stories then started to develop, which suddenly took on a final form while speaking to a friend in Brussels, the same person in fact who I had spoken with in 2011 about The Alchemist, which was an important step towards conceiving the story in Encounter with a Wise Man.

This is the moment when I realised that there would be a book consisting of two tales, both set on Christmas Eve, but separated by 2000 years, with the first taking place in a desert literal, and the second, in a desert figurative. And thus one book, two tales, one story was born, but it did not happen immediately, for I was busy with other matters. I actually wrote the book over Easter 2013, and like Encounter with a Wise Man, it just appeared on the pages, and once more, I could see that it did not need further work, and here too was the answer to the question about what exactly I was able to do as a writer.

Now I turn to the matter of its relevance to contemporary civilisation. Here I am not going to say much. I will point out that the book is highly allegorical and also spiritual in nature. It is also a book full of obfuscation.

I do not want to say too much about the meaning of the tales because the book is an invitation to people to begin to reflect upon their lives, what they believe, and what those beliefs are doing to our world. The book is also an invitation to people to begin to walk a different path, one where their minds have not closed in on fixed opinions, where there is room for mystery, and where there is an acceptance that they have not found the sole source of truth, nor has anybody else, and it is not just destinations that are important, but also the journey – life’s journey, one of discovery and adventure, a journey of the soul and the mind. And this, finally, leads me to make one more comment about the stories in A Tale of Two Deserts: they both deal with what I call the battle between the soul and the mind, and when the mind wins you know what follows.

The book is available open access, which means that you can read it for free, online, via my web site – A Tale of Two Deserts: EnigmaticChristmas Fables for the Modern Age.

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