No doubt there is a time for every book you will encounter in your life; it is just that you don’t know it unless you come to it at the right time. Take that fellow Richard Bach, and his many dreamy little philosophical books – Jonathan Livingston Seagull, A bridge across Forever, One. And a few others. I think I came to Jonathan Livingston Seagull at just the right time. My mind, probably unable to articulate what it felt, heard an echo in the flapping of that gull’s wings. A year or two year later, I experienced something similar with A Bridge Across Forever. True Love – that was a pursuit worth anything. Then somebody told me that I had to read Illusions, it was his best book by far. I didn’t believe him, for it didn’t seem possible to me that he could write anything better than the two I had already read. And so I didn’t read it then.
A few years later, I did come by it, and the moment I was past page five, I knew I had come to it at just the wrong time. The more I read, the more I couldn’t believe that it was the same person who wrote the books I loved. But it was, so I thought maybe I wasn’t the same person who had loved Jonathan so and who had this incredible notion of true love in his mind. So I picked up Jonathan Livingston Seagull again. I can’t say it was a total letdown, I still kind of liked it, but I just couldn’t fathom whatever made me love that book so. I didn’t think I had changed much. But even in its twentieth reprint, the book hadn’t changed either. If I was the same person I was five years before and if the book was the same book it was five years before, was it just circumstance that evoked such different reactions at different points in time? It had to be more than that for sure. I must have changed. Even if my behaviours hadn’t changed, mentally I was in a different place.
I think that is the true source of conflict. We change mentally, but we retain our old behaviors. For belonging, maybe out of fear. It has to be hard living our lives that way. Unless we are on auto-pilot, which isn’t hard to do these days, this internal conflict has to erode us, however long it takes. And so it goes.
The time for Ayn Rand never came, and now I don’t think it will ever come. Which, I think, is a good thing. I wonder what I will think of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance if I were to re-read it now.