The Path of Life — The Reality and The Mystery, a Book with Dual Natures: Both Substantial and Magical
–by Olivia Ou
I have read a wonderful and important book called, The Path of Life. Actually, I have been reading it repeatedly for more than 20 years. What keeps me this interested? Is it just that it was written by my father? I will leave the answer to you. First, allow me 5 minutes to tell you some unusual and interesting stories about the book.
For many people, the title The Path of Life may seem mundane and nonspecific. Don’t we all have a path of life? It is, however, the book’s subtitle, “The Reality and The Mystery” that intrigues many readers. Can mystery become reality? Can objects have dual natures: both substantial and magical?
Here is a story about a group of editors who read the original version of the book.
In 1989, my father self-published one thousand copies of The Path of Life in China. Two copies were delivered to the editing department of the People’s Literature magazine, a top-rated magazine in China at the time. Immediately, The Path of Life had a tremendous impact on the people who came into contact with it. In order to accommodate the overwhelming demand to read one of these two copies, a strict arrangement had to made: each person in the department could have a copy to read for one week. During the week, all work for that person would be suspended so the person could read. Many went without sleep. Seven days later the copy had to passed on to the next person. Within a few months, the whole department stopped working, people were either eagerly waiting for the book or reading it to the exclusion of almost everything else! A few months later an editor from the department wrote my father, sharing the story and telling him of the overwhelming enthusiasm for the book. In the letter, he also asked if he could buy several copies for his parents, his relatives, and friends. He wanted everyone he knew to have a chance to read this life changing book, both magical and real!
As editors in the People’s Literature magazine, they read numerous manuscripts and published thousands of books. And yet, in their memory, no book ever had the impact as The Path of Life.
This may lead to a couple of questions: What is so special about this particular book? And why was it self-published rather than having it published by a conventional publisher? These two questions have very practical answers.
In 1987, my father sent his manuscript to the Guangdong Literature Institute. The president of the institute asked the professional writers at the school to read through the manuscript carefully to see if it was worth publishing. Several months later, my father was invited to the Literature Institute to meet with the writers. Many writers of the institute shared their comments and thoughts on the book. At the end, the president of the institute summed up the discussions and ideas the writers had saying the comments on the book could be summarized into 3 categories:
First, from a literary perspective, The Path of Life is more readable and interesting than Dante’s Divine Comedy, as its story line is more comprehensive. Second, if The Path of Life were to be published, it may very well create a new religion. And, third, The Path of Life proposes a new theory of the Universe. Considering each of these perspectives, they all were willing to have the book published! However, due to the very unfortunate political environment of the time, they believed the book would not be able to pass censorship by the Communist Party government officials. Without it, no book could be published through a conventional publishing house. For this reason, they suggested my father to self-publish as a member of the writers’ committee in his home county.
Knowing the thoughts of the professional writers in the Guangdong Literature Institute, it is easy to understand why the editors in the People’s Literature magazine were so enthused. Of course, there are other unique and mystical reasons that draw people to the book. To name a few, it puts people into a deep sleep easily, it helps people recover from illnesses, makes people calmer and happier, gives inspiration and hope to a broken heart. There are many of these kinds of mystical, yet real, stories. It isn’t necessary to explore those mystical phenomena right away. You may just want to relax and read it as a novel. Maybe after a few pages, it will put you into a deep sleep. If that happens, you may recall what you read today and give it some more thought. Then you may have greater interest in reading.