A painfully beautiful and beautifully painful story of love and division, commitment and betrayal, brotherhood and hate crimes, fear and renewal, hope and abyss, science and superstitions, and all – in couple of decades on one island. As Shafak herself puts it, this work of fictions is “a mixture of wonder, dreams, love, sorrow and imagination.”
Each character is a delight to get to know. The fig tree and the gentle way it narrates about what humans do not see and how it communicates with all living things around it. The Greek families and the Turkish families, and the impossible love between Kostas and Defne in 1974, separated overnight by war and reunited decades later, to become parents to Ada on British soil in London. I loved Ada’s superstitious aunt – Meryem and all her womanly advice to her niece. Yusuf and Yiorgos and their love. The Happy Fig tavern and its changing role for the characters. …
After having read the novel, I will never look the same way at trees and all those who re-planted their “roots” in foreign soil. I also wonder how much does humanity need to go through to finally learn. There is nothing to win in a war or from a division. There is no need to attack.
My favorite quotes:
“A map is a two-dimensional representation with arbitrary symbols and incised lines that decide who is to be our enemy and who is to be our friend, who deserves our love and who deserves our hatred and who, our sheer indifference. Cartography is another name for stories told by winners. For stories told by those who have lost, there isn’t one.”
“The bear knows seven songs and they are all about honey.”
“You must understand, whenever something terrible happens to a country – or an island – a chasm opens between those who go away and those who stay. I’m not saying it’s easy for the people who left, I’m sure they have their own hardships, but they have no idea what it was like for the ones who stayed.”
“I have never understood why humans regard butterflies as fragile. Optimists they may be, but fragile, never!”
“Knowledge is nobody’s property. You receive it, you give it back.”
“There was something childlike in the way grown-ups had a need for stories. They held a naive belief that by telling an inspiring anecdote – the right fable at the right time – they could lift their children’s moods, motivate them to great achievements and simply change reality.”
If you ever wondered what happened to the legacy of Mary Magdalene, and who she might have been (as opposed to the story told be the church), you might be curious enough to read “Mary Magdalene Revealed”:
“The earliest evidence of the lost gospel of Mary Magdalene was discovered in January 1896, at an antiquities market in Cairo, by a German scholar named Carl Reinhardt. It was written in Coptic on ancient papyrus. … It was placed in the Egyptian museum in Berlin with the official title and catalogue number of Codex Berolinensis 8502, which is a mouthful. So, scholars refer to it as the Berlin Codex.” There are different answers to as to why the Gospel of Mary, and those of Philip and Thomas for that matter, were not selected by the church at the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. to be hammered out in the creed of the Christian faith. To me this does not matter. They made their choice. I make mine.
Watterson is a trained theologian who introduces herself as a “person who engages in the study of all that has been left out of our ideas of god”. I became a bit sus when I got to the lines were she positioned herself as a feminist. Having lived in comunism, I am wary of any -isms. Yet she explains the kind she is and I find it resonating with my belief as “True freedom means having the power to define what being free means in our lives.” This enabled my brain to read the book with a grain of salt, as the author reveals to us her personal life, all for a reason. So be patient when you get to these passages.
Watterson introduces us to what she believes to be the most “eloquent way to describe love” from the opening lines of the Gospel of Mary: “Every nature, every modeled form, every creature, exists in and with eachother.” And invites us to see “the Christianity we haven’t tried yet”. Not a Christian herself she is able to question the conventional wisdom, so I found myself furthering into the inquiry of what I have forgotten.
What some of us missed in the Chrstianity that was designed by the church is encapsulated in a quote from Leloup The Sacred Embrace of Jesus and Mary: « The restitution of the true character of Miriam of Migdala as a companion of Yeshua of Nazareth can help men and women today realize their potential of anthropos, their full humanity, which is both flesh and spirit, both human and divine. »
The book was revelatory to me in many ways. If, for example, you wondered if there is a meditation concept or tradition in Christianity, you’ll gladly discover Hesychast from 4th century Cappadocians and the masterpiece of Saint John of Sinai The Ladder of Divine Ascent. Or if you are wondering about included and excluded scriptures, you’ll find the reference to Dr. Hal Taussig A New, New. Testament: A Bible for the 21st Century revelatory.
I found this novel enchanting and best absorbed together with a mug of coffee with a pinch of nutmeg. Three female characters. A quest for God. A professor as a guide. Traditions and chains. Beliefs and confusion. Freedom and peace. Love and betrayal. Religion and faith. West and East. Luxury and poverty. … Only Elif Shafak can entangle them all for each of us to find what we are looking for.
My favorite quotes:
“There’s no wisdom without love. No love without freedom. And no freedom unless we dare to walk away from what we have become.”
“The degree of one’s emotions varies inversely with one’s knowledge of the facts.”, quoting Russell.
« Certainty was to curiosity what the sun was to the wings of Icarus. Where one shone forcefully, the other couldn’t survive. With certainty came arrogance; with arrogance, blindness; with blindness, darkness; and with darkness, more certainty. »
« Believers favour answers over questions, clarity over uncertainty. Atheists, more or less the same. Funny, when it comes to God, Whom we know next to nothing about, very few of us actually say, ‘I don’t know.’ »
Some books are picked by hands guided by pure gut feeling. This was such a pick in a library in Tbilisi. It’s been on many shelfs I passed by and certainly – in the Kindle store, yet it’s time for me was now.
It is beautiful, immersive, touching. It permeates love. There is all that is and nothing more.
Finally! The promised land of a project manager who is looking forward to enhancing own abilities, freeing the agenda of routine, necessary yet boring tasks, and, more importantly – finding ways of supporting decision-making process through forecasting and risk management. I can see clearly the many benefits an intelligent and ethical application of AI brings to my professional and personal life. With an estimated 80% of saving effort provided by AI, I will eventually find time to write that book I am thinking about.
One feature which distinguishes Peter’s books from the hundreds of books on project management is authenticity and unreserved sharing of own experience, with all its ups and downs of “the old and the wise”, delivered in a no-non-sense style. It responds to my brain’s need to learn from others. Another point of attraction for me is his very own perspectives on conceptual matters, such as, for instance, Actionable Information, for AI. I get that more than the widespread understanding of the acronym, especially if in your own language the word “intelligence” is void of the meanings it has in English.
The book is meant for reflective practitioners. Peter asks many important questions and invites us to stay inquisitive. After all, AI does not stay put. From a brief introduction and dismantling some myths surrounding AI, categories of AI into the core if it all – “people -centered AI”, each of us will find things to learn from and ponder on. Projects are about, by and for people, no doubts there.
And those afraid of or resisting AI should remember this: “The danger of artificial intelligence isn’t that it’s going to rebel against us, but that it’s going to do exactly what we ask it to do” (Janelle Shane).
My main takeaway: Stay calm, learn to benefit from AI and help people thrive! Thanks, Peter! So, when is a legacy sequel coming up?