On Philosophy Today and on Writing looks at how closely the two practices are intertwined.
2,300 years ago, Socrates asked himself a question that has had repercussions to this day: What is man and especially what can he become?
If until then philosophers such as Heraclitus or Pythagoras were exploring the outside world, with Socrates and the new current called sophistry, people began to turn their attention to the inner universe, to the human mind. And since then everything is history, and gradually in philosophy has become therapy for the soul, a practical tool that is supposed to help us understand and know ourselves, and thus to live in harmony, reconciled with our inner selves and our life.
Philosophy teaches us to look first at what is good for the mind, and the rest will follow. And if it doesn’t, then it wasn’t meant to be there in the first place and it won’t be missed.
Every individual is a cosmos (the lucky few) or a chaos of desires, emotions and ideas. If we learn to make them interact in harmony, we will then be able to live in balance with ourselves and at the same time to keep in balance our inner self and the world around us.
I think it is essential to remember that philosophers may have changed or influenced the way the next generation looks at life and understands it, but when they only just happened to be, to mature and churn ideas, they were very much novices, like us. None is born a teacher.
Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.
History is mostly guessing; the rest is prejudice.
“Will” Durant was an American writer, historian, and philosopher
The philosopher of antiquity focused on the enlightenment of the human soul. And did so with lucidly, almost with a methodical aspiration towards a universal level.
The secret of inner peace is not to equate our achievements with desires, but to lower our desires to the level of achievements.
Pierre Hadot, French philosopher and historian of philosophy
Are we at a loss for not aspiring to what the philosopher of antiquity aimed for?
Philosophy is seldom a life purpose today. But also is far from being dead.
Today philosophy looks at and into feminism. It considers ethics and political science. Philosophy today helps us understand race and class issues, culture and inter-cultural born criticism, and theories such as post-colonialism that looks into work ethic and the subaltern concept.
Philosophy today is a great tool for writers, because much like a modern scribe deals with words, philosophy assesses how thoughts are connected with language, are seen through the prism of our upbringing and culture, and how different individuals will most probably perceive the same facet of a diamond in a different way. Much like a kaleidoscope. Something writers are very much used to.
I think that, apart from modern day philosophers, writers are philosophers too.
Because as Durant put it, “Every science begins as philosophy and ends as art.“
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When my latest novel, Silent Heroes – When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for was released, it became a #1 New Release in Amazon US in History of Afghanistan for kindle category for a couple of months, a #2 Best Sellers in Arms Control as well as #4 Best Seller in Middle Eastern Literature – out of thousands of books. As an avid reader and writer, I asked myself, how is my writing different in my genre?
My interest in the War in Afghanistan was stirred by understanding what a major influence the use of military dogs has on the lives of civilians. Most books written on this subject are from a military or political perspective. A retelling of true facts. I wanted to create a work of fiction that will appeal as well as stir emotions, something plausible, yet appealing to a wider category of readers.
Silent Heroes in History in Afghanistan
As I browse History in Afghanistan Amazon category today I see books on true accounts of war, some containing in-depth interviews with prominent political figures, some analyze government accounts and provide new answers, some focusing on the past Afghan history. Most of them are written by war heroes, reporters, historians or veteran journalists.
How is my writing different in my genre
We tend to read a book from the perspective of our own experiences. Some books, after reading them, manage to change the way we see our own life – and this is what I tried to achieve with Silent Heroes.
Having lived through a Revolution and the fall of the Eastern Bloc, I believe that the power of historical knowledge is often overlooked. From my point of view, the situation in Afghanistan is still of global interest as the revealing of the Afghan Papers proved. There are other historical hot-spots throughout the world and as I write this blog post the Iran crisis and the threat of WWIII clouds the news headlines.
As a woman writer, I am aware of my communication style being different and unique, reflecting my own mindset. My writing reflects the smooth running of my thoughts, like a deep and quiet river.
“The thing that Patricia does remarkably well is taking you on a journey and heightening your senses to make you feel you are in the territory of Afghanistan frightened for your life and surviving the Taliban. The description that Patricia uses to set the scenes are absolutely beautiful and you can really visualise being there.” (Tom, Book reviewer)
“A well-researched, thought-provoking and ultimately insightful consideration of life in the military. I loved how the author captured a war-torn Afghanistan, how the fragility of human life was portrayed but especially how visual the book felt throughout.” (Amazon Review)
“Powerful, poetic language ensured I visualised each scene, heard ‘the sounds of war’… The minutiae of the episodes had me on the edge of my seat and the book possessed vivid filmic quality… This novel is an intense, evocative and heart-wrenching narrative of destruction and hope. There is a philosophical exploration of the fragility of human life and the consequences of power struggles.” (Lady Bracknell, Amazon Review)
Silent Heroes in Arms Control
Books in Amazon’s Arms Control category are often looking at global issues involving armament, or are thrillers.
How is my writing different in my genre
Including Silent Heroes in the Arms Control Amazon category was due to the nature of the story. Improvised Explosive Devices, IEDs, are the Taliban’s weapon of choice and still the most lethal explosive weapons in use today. IEDs are artisanal bombs, constructed and deployed in ways other than in conventional military action. IEDs killed more soldiers and are responsible for two-thirds of all the coalition deaths. Yet IEDs are proved to produce brain damage too, through repetitive brain trauma.
Enter Military Working Dogs, MWDs, some of my Silent Heroes, with their powerful sense of scent and IEDs are suddenly less of a threat.
Extensive research went into accurately incorporating the use of weapons in my book, be it Taliban-used Kalashnikovs, the AK-47, or a Beretta M9A1, to the feel and the effects of an IED explosion, the use of thermal imaging or the describing of an attack.
What I do differently in my book is taking the human factor into account. This is how my writing is different in my genre.
“Cell Bravo had found the door leading to the first underground tunnel, Kent feeling thankful for their night vision goggles. Weapons at the ready they approached the first flight of stairs. Kent knew that on rounding a corner of a hallway inches meant the difference between life and death. He tried the old mirror trick to check if the stairs were clear of Talibans but the tunnel was as dark as death, the mirror trick useless and he had to look for himself using his NVGs. Kent signalled Seb to cover him as he inched forward towards the gap opening onto the flight of stairs.
‘Clear,’ his hand waved as he headed down along the narrow staircase, weapon pointing forward, finger on the trigger, Seb right behind him, the remainder of Cell Bravo Marines following. They knew the corridor opening at their feet will lead both ways, double the danger. (…)
No further than six feet across and on their level stood a Taliban machine gunner. His eyes were two fire ambers on a chalked appearance, his impassive face framed by the familiar bushy beard. The muzzle of his machine gun stared at the two soldiers like a menacing third eye.
Luck is partially determined by your reaction in a specific situation.
The Marines reacted first. Sure, later they will carry on an entire controversial dialog as to which one was the first to have pressed his trigger. They both did, churning the Taliban, his machine gun flinching upwards by the force of its bullets. They tore a tunnel through the man’s body, showering stones and splinters all around. Their ears rang from the continuous blasting that had echoed back and forth in the tunnel.
What kind of thoughts race through a man’s mind when he shoots another human being at such close range?
Tweedledee later remembered thinking he was sure he will be dead before his magazine will be empty. Tweedledum thought of his parents and how he didn’t want them to lose their youngest son after their eldest died the year before, killed by an IED planted at the edge of a paved road in Afghanistan. He also thought how stupid he’d been to not pack enough dental floss.
Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg
“Have you ever read a fiction novel but felt as if you were reading a true account of events instead? This was my experience while reading Patricia Furstenberg’s Silent Heroes… her storytelling is exquisite and engaging, but also it is quite obvious that an enormous amount of research went into this novel. Although it is fiction, Patricia Furstenberg has created a book that is frighteningly accurate as far as life in Afghanistan, war, and all of those it affects… Regardless of your usual preferred genre, this is an excellent read that is realistic, full of well-developed characters, and will stay in your heart and mind long after finishing.” (Jennifer, Book Reviewer)
“The tension Furstenberg creates is torture as you are on edge at every page turn never knowing if the path ahead is clear or deadly… Furstenberg’s writing is brutal and honest. There are some pretty grim scenes as you would imagine in a war story but Furstenberg has a way that catches the grittiness and unpleasantness of it all that makes you realise that we shouldn’t look away, this has to been seen and needs to be stopped.” (Emma, Book Reviewer)
“a very well researched book written in a page-turning, sentimental style.” (Sara, Amazon Review)
Silent Heroes in Middle Eastern Literature
Is Afghanistan included in the Middle East? Afghanistan is part of the Greater Middle East, or the Middle East and North Africa. But, besides Amazon having only one category here, there is another reason why I included my book in it:
“‘Commander,’ said al Vizer and Marcos did not try to correct him, ‘have you ever wondered why this land here, that history labelled as the Middle East and Afghanistan is greatly affected by, is the only area in this big world of ours that always seems to need America’s help to achieve freedom and democracy? Have you ever wondered why the people of the Middle East and Central Asia are the only societies that every Western country on the face of the earth wants to help keep safe from imprisonment and torture? Why does the West think we need to be saved? Why are we any different from you?
‘God, whichever way you want to call Him, made us all the same. The only difference I see between me and you is my place of birth. And that, Commander, is not such a big difference.’”
Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg
How is my writing different in my genre?
I give a voice to all those involved in the war, soldiers and civilians. Men and women. Elderly and children. And I am impartial.
“The beauty of language is expertly navigated by Furstenberg. She weaves together the words in an almost poetic way despite the prose nature of the novel… She does this at multiple points and there were definitely passages I reread just for the pure beauty of the words… I would also like to talk about Furstenberg’s portrayal of the people of Afghanistan. It is so nice to see this exploration of a diverse culture that isn’t stereotypical and full of extreme inaccuracies and prejudices.” (Book Review by Jen, licensed in World History with an emphasis on the Modern Middle East)
“It is clear that the author did an amazing amount of research for this book. Over the last few years I have read many, many book written by our soldiers. All of these books were based on each soldier’s experiences. The author of “Silent Heroes” has captured the experiences of our military men and women.” (Strength, Amazon Review)
“I don’t know if the author served in the Middle East, but if she didn’t, her research is phenomenal. She provides vivid details about daily life during a deployment, as well as the complexities of carrying out a mission, dealing with the constant threat of IEDs (bombs), and working with the local population. Small details made the story come to life.” (D.W.Peach, Amazon Review)
“The author does a very good job in engaging us with the cast of this tragedy that has been playing out for hundreds of years.” (Sally Cronin, Author and Blogger)
Silent Heroes as a War & Military Action Fiction and Action Thriller Fiction
Reading at over 350 pages, people started Silent Heroes were soon completely sucked in. Written in an accessible and satisfying way, and based on scrupulous research, Silent Heroes offers a broad perspective on war.
The story is fast-paced, following three different threads: a group of Marines with their military working dogs, MWDs, an Afghan boy and a group of Taliban fighters. The action becomes a race against time, taking place over only a few days, and in fascinating locations.
“As many of you know I’m not one to get emotionally attached to books but this one definitely had my emotions all over the place. It didn’t quite have me in tears but was very close. Any book that can do that is worth a bonus heart in my rating.” (Mani, Book Reviewer)
“She (the author) has a great way of capturing their personalities and characteristics that engages the reader no matter what their age. Silent Heroes is another one of those books.” (Mandie Griffiths)
“I’m still emotional after reading Silent Heroes. Patricia Furstenberg’s writing is concise and beautiful… Patricia Furstenberg’s research is tight and it makes this read all the more special… a heartfelt novel.” (Jesica Belmont)
“A book about the dangers of doing the right thing, friendship in the most unexpected places, loyalty and betrayal, family, devotion, trauma. It speaks to the readers on so many levels, but the emotional response is the most overwhelming.” (Book Review by Crissu)
Not sure if Silent Heroes is the book for you?
“This is my first ever military, Taliban, Marines novel and I thoroughly enjoyed it. This book is well researched, well written and very easy to follow. This is the first book I have read by this author, Pat has a wonderful style of storytelling, her passion for the subject shines through in her writing.” (Sheila, Amazon Review)
“A well-researched and detailed novel that evokes so many emotions.” (Patricia Bunting, Amazon Review)
“I’ve read a few war stories over the course of this year but none of them have been as insightful as this one. Patricia Furstenberg is a truly masterful writer who knows exactly how far to go to keep her readers glued to the pages.” (Amazon Review)
Consider this an early Christmas prezzie: a collection of some of my favorite writing tip-offs from some fine authors. Every once in a while, you could say during a writer’s block or a dry spell, I try to discover what worked for other writers. How they moved forward. What is it that made them persevere. It inspires and encourages me and it fuels me with energy for the day ahead. Sometimes we just need a moment’s lift.
Graham Greene’s writing tip on getting started
‘In periods when I can’t write, I keep a notepad beside my bed. When I wake up in the night after having a dream, I note it down at once. I’ve discovered dreams are like serials and the instalments sometimes carry on for weeks and in the end form a whole.’ (Graham Greene)
Agatha Christie on working on the plot:
‘The best time to plan a book is while you’re doing the dishes.’ (Agatha Christie)
‘I have now attained the true art of letter-writing, which we are always told, is to express on paper what one would say to the same person by word of mouth.’ (Jane Austen)
William Faulkner on how to keep on going
‘Don’t be ‘a writer’ but instead be writing. Being ‘a writer’ means being stagnant. The act of writing shows movement, activity, life. When you stop moving, you’re dead. It’s never too soon to start writing, as soon as you learn to read.’ (William Faulkner)
Haruki Murakami on moving forward and routine
‘When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at four a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for ten kilometers or swim for fifteen hundred meters (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at nine p.m. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.‘
Chuck Palahniuk on how to write when you don’t feel like it
‘When you don’t want to write, set an egg timer for one hour (or half hour) and sit down to write until the timer rings. If you still hate writing, you’re free in an hour. But usually, by the time that alarm rings, you’ll be so involved in your work, enjoying it so much, you’ll keep going. Instead of an egg timer, you can put a load of clothes in the washer or dryer and use them to time your work.’ (Chuck Palahniuk)
P. D. James on reading while writing:
‘Read widely and with discrimination. Bad writing is contagious.‘ (P.D. James)
Phillip Pullman on writer’s block:
‘a lot of howling nonsense would be avoided if, in every sentence containing the word WRITER, that word was taken out and the word PLUMBER substituted; and the result examined for the sense it makes. Do plumbers get plumber’s block? What would you think of a plumber who used that as an excuse not to do any work that day?’ (Phillip Pullman)
Ernest Hemingway on avoiding writer’s block:
‘When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again.’
Jodi Picoult on the writer’s block:
‘ I don’t believe in writer’s block. Think about it — when you were blocked in college and had to write a paper, didn’t it always manage to fix itself the night before the paper was due? Writer’s block is having too much time on your hands. If you have a limited amount of time to write, you just sit down and do it. You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.‘
Kathy Reichs on having multiple layers to a story:
‘an ‘A’ story that might involve a particular plot/incident, and a ‘B’ story involving ongoing things about characters, along with perhaps a ‘C’ story and other strands for plots and characters.’ (Kathy Reichs)
Alfred Hitchcock on what to expect from a novel:
‘Drama is life with the dull parts left out.’ (Alfred Hitchcock)
Write with your ending in mind, says Edgar Allan Poe:
‘Nothing is more clear than that every plot, worth the name, must be elaborated to its dénouement before any thing be attempted with the pen. It is only with the dénouement constantly in view that we can give a plot its indispensable air of consequence, or causation, by making the incidents, and especially the tone at all points, tend to the development of the intention.’ (Edgar Allan Poe)
Paulo Coelho on being a confident author
‘You cannot sell your next book by underrating your book that was just published. Be proud of what you have.’ (Paul Coehlo)
Zadie Smith on technology:
‘ Work on a computer that is disconnected from the internet.’ (Zadie Smith)
Neil Gaiman on finishing that book:
‘ Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it. ‘ (Neil Gaiman)
And perhaps my favorite one:
Agatha Christie on perseverance:
‘I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.’ (Agatha Christie)
Barbara Kingsolver on motherhood and being a writer
‘I became a novelist and mother on the same day. Those two important lives have always been one for me. I’ve always had to do both at the same time. So my writing hours were always constrained by the logistics of having my children in someone else’s care. When they were little, that was difficult. I cherished every hour at my desk as a kind of prize. For me, writing time has always been precious, something I wait for and am eager for and make the best use of. That’s probably why I get up so early and have writing time in the quiet dawn hours, when no one needs me. My children have taught me everything about life and about the kind of person I want to be in the world. They anchor me to the future in a concrete way. Being a mother has made me a better writer. It’s also true to say that being a writer has made me a better mother. ‘
I still remember attending my first lecture on symbolism . My own studies were as far from literature and art as the moon is from the man who occupies it.
I was studying medical dentistry when a friend and I went to the University of History and Art to attend a lecture on symbolism in art. It was late one evening when we opened the massive door leading to a cosmic-size amphitheater packed with excited faces.
Used to look at dead bodies laying on an autopsy table, to squint inside them while trying to discern the shriveled femoral nerve from the already gray artery, I was struck by the excitement short-circuiting everyone attending the lecture and the amount of information hidden in plain view, underneath layers of colorful paint.
I was hooked and, although I may not have earned a degree in art, the keen interest in symbolism has sipped into my pores for good.
Was symbolism introduced in “Silent Heroes” intentionally?
On writing “Silent Heroes” I did not plan to include symbolism. It wasn’t a voluntary act, like research had been, or plotting the outline of the story, building my characters. Including symbolical elements was a work of my sly subconscious mind. It’s been the work of my cerebellum, you can say. Anatomy having its own play over art.
I do not expect readers to pick up on the symbolism used or to interpret it in the same way. I think this is very much connected to how our minds are wired. Some of us see things that others don’t, because they are not important to them. I does not mean that the first group hallucinates, or that the second group is inattentive.
Has symbolism in “Silent Heroes” been consciously manipulated at any stage during the writing process?
Now, this would imply that, at some stage during the writing of “Silent Heroes“, I picked up on some symbols introduced in the story-line. Which I did. Once I became conscious of the implications these symbolism will have on the narrative, I kept developing that thread. I did not removed it, since it was introduced organically and not voluntarily.
I felt that if I will remove the symbols, the story will be less rich, the characters, at least some of them, will lose their credibility. And myself, as a writer, will lose the passion for the telling of the story of these “Silent Heroes“, passion that had fueled me for over two years.
Can other symbols be discovered in “Silent Heroes”?
Other symbols, besides the ones my subconscious mind placed and my conscious mind picked up? I believe so, as I trust the reader’s creative minds as well as the connection I hope they will establish this book.
Is symbolism for real?
Is air real? Is the language we speak real? Is the sky blue? Humans have a innate ability and desire for creating things out of nothing. Buildings out of dust, worlds out of words, art out of dreams.
And humans also need to communicate. Writers communicate through their books. Language itself is a symbolic form of communication. Symbols used by artists, and therefore by writers, are placed – subconsciously or not – to help channel the results of their work. The end product. Much like a painter creating a portrait, an architect, a building that lasts, writers stir their stories using symbols, where appropriate.
The journey a writer takes when creating a book is anchored in his dreams and imagination, but it is stirred by the hidden symbolism which is also a product of his own mind.
Images of symbolism in “Silent Heroes” *****SPOILER ALERT*****
You could skip the very short, last paragraph, and return to it after reading “Silent Heroes”.
Some of the symbols found in “Silent Heroes” are:
The blue bird.
The book in the dust.
The Afghan garden.
What do they symbolize?
I suggest you don’t go past this point if you haven’t read“Silent Heroes” yet. First read the book, then return and see if your thoughts and mine converge.
To me, the blue bird symbolizes the spirit of Emma’s mother, as well as hope in another chance for happiness. A reminder that hope exists, no matter what situation we find ourselves in.
The book in the dust symbolizes the disrespect for human life and human wrights. Books are a well of wisdom and the product of hard, assiduous work. They don’t belong in the dirt, just like human life does not.
Qala-e-Bost Fortress symbolizes the upright spirit of the Afghan people, still standing after centuries of wars and oppression. And just like the people of Afghanistan, through its architecture, it is deeply rooted in its land, drawing strength from it.
Poppy flowers are both a symbol of the blood spilled in Afghanistan and of the never-ending struggle for survival of the Afghan people. Poppies are extremely resilient, they can grow under harsh weather conditions, although they look so fragile. But poppies are also deadly plants in the sense that farming them caught so many innocent souls in the loop of poverty and addiction.
The Afghan Garden symbolizes Heaven and hope in a land devastated by wars. Just as Heaven transcends all spirits and gods, being present in all religions, all people, no matter of their religion, sex or skin color, are equal in the eyes of God.
Have you discovered other symbols after reading “Silent Heroes“? Tell me about them, I’d love to hear from you.