A Pleasingly Heretical Paradise

Mitch Albom‘s The Five People You Meet in Heaven champions mediocrity, and I am eternally impressed.

It is my loathing to mediocrity that has made me a miserable man. It drove me ascetic. A cerebral negativity, as I like to coin it. My alibi to be reluctant to do things in which I cannot possibly set the bar very high. I dream an egoist’ megalomaniacal wet dreams, almost strikingly similar to Haruhi Suzumiya‘s rants about insignificance. I want to be big, and the wisdom of the happiness of the small fries sounds often too scary for me. Verily, it is far too easy to mistake a mind that had found enlightenment with the one that just did a funeral for its skeptic side, but I plan to bet on it. I trust its darkness, its sorrow, and its fury.

When I tried to read Zen some time ago, I was kind of turned off to its seemingly negative tendency to lower one’s standards in order to achieve peace. It’s basically auto-hypnosis, or so it looks like from an amateur’s point of view. And it’s everywhere. The attempts to seek for gems in mediocrity. To seek lessons in tragedies. This novel is no exception; it is just another sermon. Only that it didn’t sound like a lullaby. For me. I can now, perhaps, honor mediocrity more.

A Pleasingly Heretical Paradise

Most of the scenes withing The Five People You Meet in Heaven takes place in… heaven. You bet, it’s not a conventional kind of heaven. But then again, heavens ought to be heretical for them to be good; for the Biblical heaven is arguably the most tedious place ever existed (or imagined, depends on your belief). God is somehow wiser in this alternate universe; He put the departed souls into five stages, meeting five different people in their own personal heavens that are somehow connected to their past lives, and learn lessons they have not learned— then they could go to their own heaven.

Meet Mr. Edward-something, a war veteran whose last name was never revealed. Born into the 1920s, he suffered from the antics of his cold father in his entire boyhood until joining the army. Alas, he was sent back home in his 24 due to disability; his leg was shot and never recovered. He fell into deep depression afterwards and started a fight with his father, who never spoke to him again ever since. He then married and eventually inherited of his father’s job before his forties. It was a tedious job, as a maintenance staff for a local amusement park. Some ten years later his parents and his wife passed away. Like a loser, he kept working on the job he hated until he was 83, then he kicked the bucket. It was tragic— he tried to save a girl from an amusement ride in malfunction.

Then the heaven bits. It’s about seeing events in different perspectives, something I just love. The five lessons were wise. All in all it’s more about the implicit denial of the conception of fate (well I did say something about it being heretic). It’s about everything that happened were all the resultants of many many free wills, a conception that I held long ago. It observes the details of living; how little things have their significance, how something that’s seemingly beautiful might be actually hideous, and vice versa. It’s your usual sermon, but with a twist; i.e. somehow it doesn’t sound like a lullaby that turns you down and drives you sleepy. It has made my ego less mighty and more vulnerable; and perhaps finally get around the fact that being a commoner… Might not be infinitely bad after all.

It’s honestly not about the sermon, but how it’s preached

Novels are just words stacked together, see. In this case there’s no illustration whatsoever, too. Ergo, unlike when you can easily portrait the scenes in Harry Potter in your head, this book would be all about your *own* visualization. I don’t know about you, but I visualize everything that’s not visualized. For personal use, of course. And now that the novel retells the stories of a man who lived through the 1920s all the way to the 2000s, it, for me, evoked no less than a recollection of a wannabe writer’s romance about the hauntingly beautiful vibes of the past decades. And hello, I’m definitely not a moviegoer but I have some affairs with the gaming world. So, what came to me is the arresting flavor of the Shadow Hearts series. The smell of the early 20th century Shanghai, Belgium, London, even New York. So close yet so far. The cold and the silence, almost so very warm and noisy at the same time. The opera. The hideous haircuts. The deliberate anachronisms. The jazz. Everything. And let’s not forget the cold corners of town as presented in the Shadow of Memories; something that’s so strangely came to mind when I was reading the novel. Or one of the Devil Summoner release. It was like discovering a way back home; I got back to something I adore from the wilderness of gloomy philosophy I pretended to enjoy for a while back. Edward’s mother’s birthday cakes, his comical romance with his spouse, the aftermath of his demise, all pictured so beautifully in my mind, synchronizing with several related memories (including my boyhood years in a harbor town) that lingers within my realm of ideas; arguably dormant, from some time ago, until just recently.

There is an ecstasy so good that it feels like you’re immortalized. In a split second, when you feel it in you, you’d wish you’ll live forever— but would not object even if you’d cease to exist in ten seconds, no remorse. I feel it in these kinds of things. The virtual omnipotence I gain whenever I govern a virtual existence.

*rants ended

In God We Trust. RosenQueen, company.

38 thoughts on “A Pleasingly Heretical Paradise

  1. Now, I’m betting on something. Whether this stuff self fulfilled or self defeated. How come you wrote in english? I think this one is the first time, isn’t it?

    How much the cost of the book? Perhaps I can ask my friend to buy it for me when he goes to S’pore. Even though, I’m thinking to buy either Hannah Arendt’s Banality of Evil or The Catcher in the Rye.

  2. There is an ecstasy so good that it feels like you’re immortalized.

    Drugs?πŸ˜†

    *singing Lennon’s Imagine*:mrgreen:

  3. It was like discovering a way back home; I got back to something I adore from the wilderness of gloomy philosophy I pretended to enjoy for a while back. Edward’s mother’s birthday cakes, his comical romance with his spouse, the aftermath of his demise, all pictured so beautifully in my mind, synchronizing with several related memories (including my boyhood years in a harbor town) that lingers within my realm of ideas; arguably dormant, from some time ago, until just recently.

    Welcome back.:mrgreen:

    *and once again we share another similar experience*

    BTW, itu sekilas menyinggung tema post saya yang baru mau ditulis, lho.πŸ˜›

  4. “Harry Potter in your head”
    oh yeah! i like harry potter too!
    *sok tau*
    .
    .
    .
    erggghh….mbacanya ntar! mo nyari kamus dolo!

  5. interesting, looks like its change your point of view about life isn’t it?
    wish i could read it..
    btw, why are you wrote this review in english? is it to avoid some “fundamentalist” ? lol

    @sora9n,

    *and once again we share another similar experience*

    dunno why, i have strange feeling that you two are destined to be connect each other.. lol, or maybe you two are sibling in the another paralel universe?

    btw, I apologize for my bad english

  6. Kok jadi basa London semua?πŸ˜•

    @ yarza
    Err, and what is it that’s particularly stunning about it being held in heaven?

    @ Nenda Fadhilah

    How come you wrote in english?

    Some parts are too embarrassing to write in Indonesian; by using english I can deliberately use obscure words to hide that embarrassment.:mrgreen:

    How much the cost of the book?

    Tujuh puluh lima ribu.πŸ˜•

    Even though, I’m thinking to buy either Hannah Arendt’s Banality of Evil or The Catcher in the Rye.

    Ada juga kok, Catcher in the Rye, dengan harga yang sama.πŸ˜›

    @ alex
    Ini drugs yang halal, suhu…πŸ˜€

    @ sora9n

    *and once again we share another similar experience*

    BTW, itu sekilas menyinggung tema post saya yang baru mau ditulis, lho.πŸ˜›

    Lagi?πŸ˜πŸ˜†

    @ hoek
    Hehehe, saya nggak pernah baca Harry Potter, tuh.πŸ˜›

    @ Mihael Ellinsworth
    No, not exactly an artifact; it’s written in 2003.πŸ™‚ Kayaknya di Gramedia seharusnya ada…

    @ warnetubuntu

    Like I said;

    “Some parts are too embarrassing to write in Indonesian; by using english I can deliberately use obscure words to hide that embarrassment.:mrgreen:

    dunno why, i have strange feeling that you two are destined to be connect each other.. lol, or maybe you two are sibling in the another paralel universe?

    I kind of wished it was a girl… >_>:mrgreen:

  7. so the sermon aimed to whom then? for everyone who didn’t accepted as who are they in their real life or for us who should facing the life as we should face to being heretic than ever?πŸ˜‰

    i apologize for looking on it from different view…

  8. @Alex: When I saw the book at this blog, I think I’ve seen it somewhere. Perhaps I should take a peek at my campus’ library.

    @Difo: The same reason why I wrote in english or perhaps later in French.πŸ˜€ So those stuff cost cepego. *gubrak*

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  10. But it’s quite potent in making you able to accept even the worst, so it wouldn’t hurt to try.

    means but not forced, why not try it, right? yeah, i think we deserve to have it…
    put them in my next journeyπŸ˜‰

  11. @ Nenda Fadhilah
    You might want to rent it. To buy it is rather costly.

    @ extremusmilitis
    Well, do try new things. We can discard the bad ideas along the way.πŸ˜€

  12. @ Kopral Geddoe

    Lagi?πŸ˜πŸ˜†

    Beda dikit sih. Saya belum pernah baca novel itu, soale. Mungkin dari anime culture atau sebangsanya.πŸ˜†

    β€œSome parts are too embarrassing to write in Indonesian; by using english I can deliberately use obscure words to hide that embarrassment.:mrgreen: ”

    Hey, you stole my technique!πŸ‘Ώ

    warnetubuntu:
    lol, or maybe you two are sibling in the another paralel universe?

    Beats me…πŸ™„

    Kopral Geddoe:
    I kind of wished it was a girl… >_>:mrgreen:

    …… >_>

    *looking for a cool girl with her own idealistic point of view, fondness of anime culture & art, and considerable photoshop abilities*

    *is there any?*πŸ™„
    πŸ˜†

  13. @ sora9n

    Beda dikit sih. Saya belum pernah baca novel itu, soale. Mungkin dari anime culture atau sebangsanya.πŸ˜†

    Yaa, ditunggu, deh.πŸ˜›

    Hey, you stole my technique!πŸ‘Ώ

    I didn’t. Great minds think alike, see.πŸ˜†

    *looking for a cool girl with her own idealistic point of view, fondness of anime culture & art, and considerable photoshop abilities*

    *is there any?*πŸ™„
    πŸ˜†

    Aaa…

    Even if I were to find a girl with a vision, would she be pretty? Even if she were pretty, would she be available? You see, I have too many wishes.

    Solution? Never marry. Die young.πŸ˜†

    @ CY
    *tabur garam*:mrgreen:

  14. Saya sudah baca…yeah, buku yg bagus, membuatku berpikir ulang ttg surga.
    saya tidak ingin berada di surga yg sama dgn orang yang saya benci…πŸ˜›

  15. Bahasa inggris?
    ….😦
    Padahal ingin tau tapi ga sempet baca. Saya lemot klo pakai bahasa inggris. Poin pentingnya kayaknya tentang surga ya? *pertanyaan yang ga penting*:mrgreen:

    komentar pendingπŸ˜„

  16. You might want to rent it. To buy it is rather costly.

    Indeed. However it is hard to find the book here. Beside that I’m busy with my memorial pleading now; no more blog walking for a while, etc. So even I can find it, it’s highly doubted that I can even read it. I need to sacrifice some of my enjoyable things for an enjoyable career life at the future.

    On a lighter note:

    Even if I were to find a girl with a vision, would she be pretty? Even if she were pretty, would she be available? You see, I have too many wishes.

    Most of my girl friends said they looking for a guy with vision with the life and also ‘equal’ or more compared with them. But mostly they don’t ask for superb good looking face.

  17. Ada di gramed kok, tapi entah terbitan GPU atau penerbit lain. Setelah baca Tuesday with Morrie saya baca buku ini. Sekarang masih nyari buku berikutnya dari Mitch Albom yang ceritanya masih mirip dengan ‘Five people’, seseorang yang bertemu Tuhan di after-life ditantang Tuhan untuk bermain golf di Surga dengan beberapa ciptaannya, dari para ilmuwan sampai Maryln Monroe.πŸ™‚

  18. Wah, wah, wah, kayaknya imajinasinya Mas Albom ini begitu liar, ya?πŸ˜€

    Btw, saudara-saudara, ternyata tersangkanya memang ada di Gramedia, tho? Silahken dibeli apabila berminat.πŸ˜›

  19. Hmmm,, Ma baru ke blognya Difo lagi nih,,
    Belom baca, disave dulu yak,,

    I didn’t. Great minds think alike, see.πŸ˜†

    Kan! Ma bilang juga kalian dari awal mirip, tapi kalo nyebutnya kaya gitu, kesannya terlalu muji,,πŸ˜†

  20. Hmm,, baru selesai baca nih, ga tau kenapa, kok Ma jadi rada terharu ya? apalagi di paragraf terakhirnya,,
    Kenapa ya?? bingung sendiri nih,,😐

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