Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I Want To Get Away, I Want To Fly Away

If it had not been for the No Reservations Shangai episode, I never would have considered reading Lost Horizon by James Hilton. It was the title and the idea of Shangri-La that caught my attention. This was one of those books that lingered on the fringes of my conscience whispering, “Read me, read me, read me...” So I finally gave in.

Lost Horizon is the story of Hugh Conway, who, along with three others, are kidnapped and left stranded in the mountains of Tibet, at a place called Shangri-La, a hidden monastery. Finding there is no easy way to return to friends and family, they are forced to wait for an opportunity to leave through the perilous mountain passes. Shangri-La, is a sanctuary, that, throughout his stay, Conway, a weary veteran of the trenches of World War I, is discovering that perhaps he’s not in a hurry to leave; that maybe he’d like to stay. Shangri-La offers him peace and contentment.

The more content Conway became in Shangri-La, the more I began marking the beautifully written passages that described the inner peace he was discovering. From a man who describes is war experience like this:

“I was excited and suicidal and scared and reckless and sometimes in a tearing rage - like a few million others, in fact. I got mad drunk and killed and lechered in great style. It was the self-abuse of all one’s emotions, and one came through it, if one did at all, with a sense of almighty boredom and fretfulness.”

To feeling the full effects of Shangri-La:

“... in the midst of the still-encompassing dream, he felt himself master of Shangri-La. These were his beloved things, all around him, the things of that inner mind in which he lived increasingly, away from the fret of the world.”

You can’t blame Conway for wanting to stay, especially with the threat of another world war looming in Europe. I loved the sense of quiet contentment felt by Conway throughout his stay in Shangri-La. It felt well deserved after all he’d been through.

And I felt I deserved reading Lost Horizon. It was such a relief to read. It was so well written and provided a sense of calm to my Mockingjay rattled mind as I joined Conway on his discovery of inner peace. Sometimes it feels like with some books, such as Mockingjay, there’s too much focus on concept and not enough on execution (or logic). Lost Horizon is a great combination of both and it was a joy to read.