The Oasis Within: The Story Behind the Story

The Huffington Post has helped to create a new way of being a philosopher, and of looking at life philosophically. Let me explain.

In February of 2011, after a breakfast of toast and coffee, I suddenly had the most vivid daydream of my life. An old man and a boy were sitting under a palm tree, at a beautiful desert oasis, talking. They were in Egypt. It was 1934. And their conversation was great. I was intrigued. It was all so real, and so different from anything I had ever experienced. I have a robust imagination, but nothing like this. As the movie played in my head, I ran up the stairs to my study to start writing it down. The boy, age thirteen, was with his much older uncle, and it seemed that they were crossing the desert with friends from a small village in western Egypt, on their way to Cairo. I wrote until the vision passed, and I posted the few pages I had written out, as a transcription, right here on The Huffington Post. Right away, I got lots of enthusiastic emails. "What is this? This is great!" I didn't know what it was.

The next day, the movie started up again. And I wrote down everything I saw and heard. I posted again here. And it happened again, a rough draft of a third scene that also appeared here. This went on for weeks, and then months. The characters talked about such things as inner peace, the challenge of change, the dynamic nature of balance, how things can help or harm us, the true power of the mind, the hidden structures of our world, the importance of wisdom, the elements of human nature, the necessity of love, the requirements of success, and the world's strangest gift of all -- uncertainty. I could be almost anywhere, doing almost anything, and I'd have to grab a pen and paper and start writing. Pretty soon, I realized that I had an entire book. It was called The Oasis Within. I knew that because I woke up with the title seared in my mind. Yeah, it's all strange. But interestingly strange. And it was the most fun, by far, that I've ever had writing -- or doing anything as a philosopher.

HuffPo readers were so encouraging. Not many commented here, but lots and lots wrote me, urging me to continue writing whatever this was. And I did.

The story continued. A second book, much bigger, appeared, as if it were already fully formed in every detail and I just had to get it in that movie form so I could write it down, as well. I never had to make up anything. And I never did. It all just came to me, in a rush. It was like drinking out of an open fire hydrant. It was all I could do to type fast enough. Egyptian names, historical references, stuff I didn't know anything about at all -- but at the end of each day, I began to research what I had seen in the movie, and all sorts of odd details turned out to be true of the time and the place. How was this happening? I had no idea. The first book, it turned out, was a fascinating conversational prologue to what was now obviously a much longer action, adventure, and mystery novel full of comedy, romance, politics, crime, and, most of all, philosophy. I was seeing a deep worldview developed by the characters in what they did and said. It really blew me away.

The second book was more than twice the length of the first one. Then, the movie picked up again -- there was a third, even bigger, book, and a fourth one, and on and on. Book eight came to a wild culmination, and the movie projectionist, whoever it is, then took a break. I was nearly a million words into the most unexpected adventure of my life, and what I now think of as the culmination of my work as a public philosopher interested in understanding as much as I can about what we're doing in this world, and how we can do it best. I learned more from the movie than I had at Yale, UNC, and Notre Dame combined. But they had all prepared me well for this wild and unexpected journey.

One friend, a former student, who is a highly acclaimed novelist, read the first two books in draft and said, "This is The Alchemist meets Harry Potter meets Indiana Jones." That was encouraging. And the first edition of the first book just came out in its first form -- a really beautiful paperback. The hardcover version, and an ebook, are due out within a week or two. But the paperback is now there, waiting for you, at Amazon, hoping you're curious. The hardcover and the ebook will be available through any bookseller, and also very soon. But if you want to see the opening chapters in the new adventure right now, the journey that has changed my own life for the better, and that began right here on HuffPo, please go check out The Oasis Within, and read and tell me soon what you think!

To quote one of the characters, "Much is yet to be revealed."