The fundamental joy of a well-crafted novel lies in its ability to transport you into another mind, to allow you to experience the world from the perspective of someone other than yourself, often someone in a very different place, or even time. The process may be painful, joyful, thrilling or tragic—even all of these at once, but when skillfully executed it is authentic, meaning that while the experiences in the novel may be new to the reader, they still resonate at some basic human level. Striking such an emotional or spiritual chord justifies the hours invested in reading such a novel, and long after the book has been finally closed the reader’s world has been enriched.
Our social media driven world, so quick to condemn and categorize, has no time for such experiences and no tolerance for considering the complex morality and motives that actually drive human beings. Notwithstanding the effects of our relentlessly connected world and the intolerant architecture of its social messaging, we do not live one dimensional lives and our morality does not function with on/off switches activated by algorithms. So many today pretend that they can navigate life by skimming over the surface of every issue and every relationship, negating anything that is thought-provoking by slapping a label on it. But the human is not programmed that way. Despite the cultural forces that seek to drag us into the shallows, we are deepwater creatures, as were those who came before us. It is not at all clear that we are better than our ancestors or those living in less materialistic cultures elsewhere on the planet today, and the pretense of popular culture that noisily suggests otherwise only diminishes us as humans. We desperately need reminding that we are all swimming in the same ocean of humanity, and the battered Buddhists of remote Tibet, as well as those who came before us, are right there beside us.
This is why I will be occasionally lifting brief passages out of my books and revisiting the characters, issues and setting from this broad perspective. The story of whom we are is not so different from the story of whom we have been. Our hearts and spirits can be informed, perhaps even enhanced, by the experiences of persecuted Tibetan lamas, rebellious daughters of British nobility, aged natives from disappearing tribes, outcast Chinese investigators, exiled Highlanders, and wily old inventors who dally with lightning. They are all companions in our amazing human journey.