By Adrian Gerth
Billed as an intriguing cross of The Alchemist and Harry Potter, the newest Tom Morris book has quite a lot of fanfare surrounding it. The Oasis Within is his twentieth published book, and hardly just another bullet point on his long list of achievements. Plumbing the depths of life’s mysteries, young Walid and his uncle discuss the nature of balance, the importance of wisdom, human nature, and uncertainty. The Yale philosopher weaves a tale of young Walid traveling across the Egyptian desert to Cairo. Along the way, him and his uncle Ali discuss life’s many mysteries, twists, and turns.
“I’ve never had such a vision before,” says Tom of The Oasis Within. Playing like a movie in his mind, the tale unfolded before him in such vivid detail is was a wonder in and of itself that he managed to concentrate on writing it down. Born with a questing imagination, Tom has always had good intuition when it came to understanding some of life’s more important questions, but never in such detail as now. “It’s very exciting,” he says. “Now I get to share that movie with other people.” As to the Egyptian background set in 1934, Tom was as surprised as his readers. “I didn’t know much about the country at all,” he says. He would allow the story to unfold as it did, then rely on Google for the factual background that makes the tale feel credible. Again, his imagination stuck well to the facts.
The lessons Ali learns in the book are easily transferred to our real life dilemmas; perhaps it was no accident that Tom had this vision during the troubled times of the Arab Spring. That particular string of events is interpreted in many different ways around the world. One uniting concept in Western society is our perception of freedom, the struggles of the everyday man for liberty and equality. In Oasis, Ali talks about the power of the mind to interpret situations in ways that put us at peace more easily. “There’s one image in the book, a passage about an emotional telescope that we all have and how we should use it,” says Tom. Ali says that through the small lens of the telescope, the one that most people look through, all of our problems seem enormous; sometimes insurmountable. If you can change your perception, and flip the telescope, you would see the situation in a completely new light.
As a philosopher, Tom is obviously well versed in many disciplines of thinking and perceptive reasoning. In his academic days, he stuck to the theories, what could be, and for all we could presumably know, what is that we cannot understand. As he has matured, he’s grown more practical but still never forgot his roots. “In [Oasis], both levels come together,” he says.
The writing in Oasis is simple and clear while able to convey a deeper message. Tom’s writing ability was not always so concise. “They were densely argued, and assumed a lot of background in philosophy on the part of the readers,” says Tom. While always able to excise ten dollar words from his writing, his subjects sometimes were the heaviest burden for his readers. It could be the change from articles and theses to novels that allowed Tom to best explain his philosophic sutras in laymen’s terms.
He’s not claiming himself to have golden fingers; it’s the learned skill of getting past his own doubts and listening to the story that allows its truest iteration to form.
As for Walid and Ali’s future? So far, Tom has seven big novels waiting on his hard drive. December 2015 will see The Golden Palace, with January holding a quick follow-up. He then foresees another sequel within six months. If you’re curious to see the movie that Tom held inside his own mind, you’re in luck; a producer has already shown interest. “We’ll see. Right now the books are the center of my attention,” says Tom. Either way, there will be plenty of Ali’s wisdom for all of the worlds Walids.