||March 5, 2012
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Meditation on Space-Time, a Novel
Physicist-Monk Rejects Salvation to Cast Preacher into Hell
“Meditation on Space-Time is a strong pick for those seeking a metaphysical twist… with plenty of humor about life…” -Midwest Book Review
Even as Father Lawrence was hearing the stranger’s confession, he dreamed of probability waves, black holes and temporal loops. He came to Gilead to search for his friend Camellia, not to hear about this penitent’s vices: seducing women, framing rivals and laundering church-funds. After he had chased the penitent through the sanctuary into the church graveyard and lost the man, he found a note that revealed a connection to Camellia.
When he learned that Camellia was pregnant with this man’s child, he knew the time to play ostrich was over. But ever since the girl whom he had counseled, committed suicide, he preferred distancing himself from others than engaging their struggles. And ever since falling out with his best friend, he preferred contemplating the duality of space-time to sorting out his own joy and grief and love and hatred. If only he could free himself from his emotional scum… if only he could marshal the courage to polish off his search for enlightenment…
He would discover the hidden identities behind each face and Camellia’s helping the villain to bring him down. When faced with betrayal, he would lock himself in his cabin and struggled between retreating to his meditation on space-time and confronting the villain. He would renounce his vow and learn to equate a dollar with a cheeseburger. He would buy a gun without knowing how to load the magazine. He would search for his enemy. But when faced with the gun barrel, Father Lawrence would have to contemplate death… only to hear the three shots that saluted the dark night…
Either mercy or justice; either salvation or friendship. Either choice: a flawed solution for a fallen man in a broken world.
Meditation on Space-Time, A Novel portrays a man’s struggle to discover his identity in contemporary society, to sacrifice for his friends and to take the road less traveled. For readers who would eat up the hero’s every morsel of laughter and tear as if each were bittersweet chocolate. While sifting through clues to the characters’ true identities and hidden agendas.
“Leonard Seet has left no literary devices on the table to narrate his tale…I was enthralled by the pure beauty of the writing among all the plot points. The scintillating writing is elegant, pure, grownup, originally cast, heartfelt, intelligent… The writing is simply breathtaking… brilliant bit of poetic science… If you prefer intelligently crafted novels, then do yourself a favor and by all means read this unforgettable novel by Leonard Seet: the writing is to die for.”
-David Lentz, author, Bloomsday: the Bostoniad
Midwest Book Review
“Meditation on Space-Time is a strong pick for those seeking a metaphysical twist… with plenty of humor about life…”
A Mystery about Finding an Oasis in a Grain of Sand
Father Lawrence is a complex protagonist: an intellectual man of the cloth with an unwavering faith in God along with a daunting grasp of physics, logic and philosophy. In graceful exposition here is how the modest monk views himself: “I am an imperfect man living in an imperfect world, trying to weave through the chaotic interactions of semi-causal events with linear logic, contradictory emotions, dialectic wisdom, and mortal integrity. On a dark night, I would search Polaris to guide me, but on life’s journey only the internal North Star could lead to that instant when eternity freezes time.”
The priest's professional work draws him into a complex series of crimes committed by a preacher named Jim Whitfield who is the antagonist representing penultimate evil -- a devil who cannot be killed as he brings waves of misery through the epic deceit upon which he immensely profits. The battle beyond good and evil between the priest and the preacher reminded me of the battle between Crucifer and the teacher in Alexander Theroux's brilliant novel, “Darconville's Cat.” In becoming invested in his drive to overcome this satanic force, Father Lawrence understands that his own inherent goodness and worth may become diminished and in the process he risks becoming more like the evil that he seeks to overcome.
The priest yearns through a shift in the logic of space and time to discover an oasis in a grain of sand and so he finds himself dealing with life's grand existential questions on the shore of Thoreau's Walden Pond in Concord: “I had gone to meditate at Walden Pond. That morning, under the rising sun, the water sang and danced to the rhythm of the morning breeze, and the ripples crisscrossed to weave a lattice of light. The clouds drifted in the stream of air. No one else to taint the birches or to corrupt the morning or to smear the lark’s melody. I chanted Veni Creator Spiritus. Peace. Yet, a squall-laden peace. I wanted to search for peace, for kindness, for love in hypocrisy’s rubbles but the desert had opened its arms. I would enter, not hesitating, and choke on the dry air and collapse under the sandstorm. And yet, among the sand dunes rippling into the horizon would sprout an oasis if I could endure and embrace the desert as it had me. These hands and feet of flesh and bone, this heart of fear and hunger, under the sun and in the sand, to seize the fleeting peace at Walden Pond.”
Leonard Seet’s novel is about polar opposites and the dynamics of their conflicts and how these dynamics drive the laws of physics of a compelling, indeed riveting, story line. Leonard Seet has left no literary devices on the table to narrate his tale: people simply aren't who they appear to be, nothing is as it seems, what's done isn't always really done. As much as I enjoyed this story line of Leonard Seet, I was enthralled by the pure beauty of the writing among all the plot points. The scintillating writing is elegant, pure, grownup, originally cast, heartfelt, intelligent: there are dozens of examples of this beauty and here a just a few of the dozen passages that I read and re-read because they were so artfully crafted. Check out this poetic rhapsody from the priest: “Woe and joy to mortals who have tasted heaven, who have seen the dark night, who have encountered THOU. No eyes could gaze the midday sun; no ears could listen to the Siren’s songs; no hands could touch the stove flame. But the brilliance, the sweetness, the warmth.” And this brilliant bit of poetic science: “Bright night surfing upon the crest of a probability wave by a Fourier transform reached Hilbert space the wilderness beyond existence the phantom space of mathematics the mirror world where a kick there would cause a jerk here through sinusoidal ripples in the uncertainty between yes and no space-time emerged from nothing to exist for a million years before returning to the void for another eternity. In the horizon of the next galaxy a positron and an electron mated and gave birth in annihilation to twin photons streaking at the speed of light toward opposite infinities to reencounter at the other pole of the space-time hydrosphere birth life decay death the cosmic cycle beyond space-time beyond matter-energy beyond I-thou beyond Alpha and Omega.”
The writing is simply breathtaking: Seet gives you credit for being a thinking person, a serious reader, a person of substance and high intelligence. As a Bostonian I reveled in the finely wrought stagecraft of the settings there. This literary novel is layered so that it can be enjoyed by those who simply want a good story and yet it satisfies those who want a book written poetically with substance and a style that is grown-up and intellectually complex enough to open new intellectual avenues. If you prefer intelligently crafted novels, then do yourself a favor and by all means read this unforgettable novel by Leonard Seet: the writing is to die for.
-David Lentz, author Bloomsday: the Bostoniad
A Philosophical and Religious Odyssey
Meditation on Space-Time is a philosophical novel where the quantum mechanical worldview seeps into everyday life. The Uncertainty Principal, and especially the Many-World Interpretation, colors Father Lawrence’s perception of reality. A world of possibilities at every moment, where the outcome follows stochastic processes rather than deterministic laws.
“At the ledge of each instant facing the chasm between one moment and the next, four billion souls awaited renewal and an infinite number of possible worlds anticipated birth. Of all the possible worlds, only one would come to be; and yet an infinite number would open up for the next instant.”
But the priest also struggles between the religious life of doctrine and rites and the spiritual life of creativity and mystery, ultimately choosing the latter by renouncing his vow. Like Thomas Merton, he refuses to slaughter his intellect in the name of piety and religiosity.
Father Lawrence must tread through the desert of betrayals and losses to reach the oasis of friendship and enlightenment. And enlightenment is what he seeks rather than perfection—for Ichiro—and happiness—for Camellia. In the end, he must accept the loss of his best friend and carry the pain on his solitary journey toward enlightenment, or just old age.
Meditation on Space-Time is a novel of love and friendship, of good versus evil and of journeys taken. I recommend it for those who reflect such journeys. The lyrical prose that threads through the characters and their secrets is beautiful and provocative. A memorable novel.
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