This book begins as “wisdom literature” but ends with plot twists and “gotcha” moments. Both halves are worth it. You really haven’t read anything like it. I don’t say that lightly, since I am not sure how to classify it. This is a different kind of novel, and since it is something of a prequel, it doesn’t have to follow the typical story-line pattern. It is a series of wisdom conversations between an old man and his nephew. In many ways it sums up Morris’s own philosophy of life.
Key idea: a person’s inner strength comes from cultivating an “oasis within” himself. Nevertheless, we cannot stay at an oasis. We have to do more than simply rest in moments of strength and recovery. We must achieve balance. Morris’s interlocutor, Uncle Ali, explains, “Balance is not a steady, static thing. It’s ever changing. The essence of it is care and correction, or awareness and adjustment. It is an ongoing dance of change” (Morris 13).
Key idea: We can’t control the day, but only what we make of the day.
Lessons from the viper: emotions and feelings aren’t bad. They are often good teachers, but only if they are disciplined and controlled. Morris says “we must cultivate a sensitivity to what is real” (33). We do this “by creating new habits of feeling.” Very few things are as bad as we fear them to be. We should neither ignore all our fears nor over-exaggerate them.
What do you want to do with your life? There are two different types of “opportunities” we get. Some are for particular actions and some are for directions to grow (39). The latter type usually materialize more than once in life. The key thing is to “act with as much excellence as you can.”
Ancient philosophers spoke of the four elements. While we know that the physical reality isn’t reducible to earth, air, fire, and water, these elements nevertheless serve as a good picture of man. Those who have “fire” have a creative energy in them. Earth represents stability. They are dependable and have fertile soil for vision to grow. Water flows out to encourage and nourish people. Air is information. The key is to balance these.
Those are some of the gems you will find in this book. Highly recommended.