Some astute readers have pointed out that the narrator’s journey has an uncanny similarity to the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism. To learn more about this concept, visit Wikipedia or read The Way to End Suffering by Bhikkhu Bodhi. For an analysis of how this fits into the story of Timely Persuasion, read on.
1. Right View
The Prologue, featuring the narrator’s views on life and love and the situation of his sister.
From the Bodhi text:
“The importance of right view can be gauged from the fact that our perspectives on the crucial issues of reality and value have a bearing that goes beyond mere theoretical convictions. They govern our attitudes, our actions, our whole orientation to existence. Our views might not be clearly formulated in our mind; we might have only a hazy conceptual grasp of our beliefs. But whether formulated or not, expressed or maintained in silence, these views have a far-reaching influence. They structure our perceptions, order our values, crystallize into the ideational framework through which we interpret to ourselves the meaning of our being in the world.”
2. Right Intention
Our narrator means well in all of his meddling, from his overprotectiveness of his sister to his objecting, and even in his involvement with setting his sister up with Nelson to begin with.
“The Buddha explains right intention as threefold: the intention of renunciation, the intention of good will, and the intention of harmlessness. The three are opposed to three parallel kinds of wrong intention: intention governed by desire, intention governed by ill will, and intention governed by harmfulness. Each kind of right intention counters the corresponding kind of wrong intention.”
The narrator has the 3 right intentions, whereas he has convinced himself (possibly incorrectly) that Nelson has the 3 wrong intentions.
3. Right Speech
Literally, the objection speech at the wedding. Figuratively, his failed attempts revolve around slandering Nelson to a degree, even though “slander” is the wrong word since his comments ares based on facts and observances. It also revolves around lying to his other selves regarding what is going on.
“The Buddha divides right speech into four components: abstaining from false speech, abstaining from slanderous speech, abstaining from harsh speech, and abstaining from idle chatter.”
In the end, both the old and young narrator speak the truth and achieve much more satisfactory results, culminating in the honest telling of the full tale, but minimizing idle chatter by not naming names. They need to find the “right speech” in order to succeed.
4. Right Action
He abstains (albeit inadvertently) from most of his past relationships as a part of his quest. He diverges from this path with the redheaded girl and his attempt to eliminate Nelson, but later traps Nelson rather than killing him as he completes this stage. He also decides not to pursue the redheaded girl in the end.
“Right action means refraining from unwholesome deeds that occur with the body as their natural means of expression. The pivotal element in this path factor is the mental factor of abstinence, but because this abstinence applies to actions performed through the body, it is called “right action.” The Buddha mentions three components of right action: abstaining from taking life, abstaining from taking what is not given, and abstaining from sexual misconduct.”
5. Right Livelihood
At one point he uses the wrong livelihood in stealing the songs to teach his father, but in the end undoes this change to move to the proper path of setting things right. (The songs could also tie in to “taking what is not given” as described above.)
“For a lay disciple the Buddha teaches that wealth should be gained in accordance with certain standards. One should acquire it only by legal means, not illegally; one should acquire it peacefully, without coercion or violence; one should acquire it honestly, not by trickery or deceit; and one should acquire it in ways which do not entail harm and suffering for others”
6. Right Effort
His efforts are focused on preventing and abandoning the bad aspects while creating and maintaining the good.
In this factor, the practitioners should make a persisting effort to abandon all the wrong and harmful thoughts, words, and deeds.The four phases of right effort mean:
- make effort to prevent the unwholesome that has not yet arisen in oneself.
- make effort to destroy the unwholesome that has arisen in oneself.
- make effort to arouse the wholesome that has not yet arisen in oneself.
- make effort to maintain the wholesome that has arisen in oneself.
7. Right Mindedness
Discovering the ultimate truths regarding what has been going on, accepting them, and using the new knowledge to act on them.
“The Buddha says that the Dharma, the ultimate truth of things, is directly visible, timeless, calling out to be approached and seen. He says further that it is always available to us, and that the place where it is to be realized is within oneself. The ultimate truth, the Dharma, is not something mysterious and remote, but the truth of our own experience. It can be reached only by understanding our experience, by penetrating it right through to its foundations. This truth, in order to become liberating truth, has to be known directly.”
This is also echoed in how we start with full body time travel, and evolve (de-volve?) to headtrip travel of the mind.
“Though no fixed order is laid down in which they are to be taken up, the body is generally taken first as the basic sphere of contemplation; the others come into view later, when mindfulness has gained in strength and clarity.”
8. Right Concentration
All of the various deep thoughts and self analysis that goes on in his inner monologue throughout the novel, as well as the specific “right concentration” required to travel in time.
“Concentration represents an intensification of a mental factor present in every state of consciousness. This factor, one-pointedness of mind (citt’ekaggata), has the function of unifying the other mental factors in the task of cognition. It is the factor responsible for the individuating aspect of consciousness, ensuring that every citta or act of mind remains centered on its object. Even then its range is still narrower: it does not signify every form of wholesome concentration, but only the intensified concentration that results from a deliberate attempt to raise the mind to a higher, more purified level of awareness.”
Pretty interesting how all of those deeper themes could be embedded into a musically infused time travel adventure, eh?
It’s all a coincidence.
I’d never heard of the 8 truths until I was several drafts into the book, and never consciously tried to modify anything to work them in.
Makes you wonder how many other times works of art or literature are analyzed for deeper hidden meanings that aren’t really there.