Blue seeks to identify and consider the true nature of our conflicts with the world, other people, and with ourselves. Its central premise is that the underlying cause of our pain and frustrations is our inability to accept that we have no real effective power to change and direct the world around us in a manner that fulfills our expectations, meets our demands, and ensures our security. It proposes that we live in a fully formed and detailed personal vision of the world constructed by our requirements and fears, and that this architecture comes into constant conflict with that of the world we actually experience. This may not be a unique thesis, but particular emphasis is placed on revealing this essential conflict, and subjecting each point of resentment and disagreement to rigorous analysis in a comprehensive written inventory.
The manuscript is 85,000 words long, divided into three major sections of five chapters each. Each section has a title – Living, Learning, and Loving – and each quirky chapter title has a descriptive byline, for instance; Chapter nine “Fish – the cause of our complicity.” The tone is non-polemic, conversational and questioning. The book makes no reference to transcendental spirituality or poetic imagery, proposes no pseudo-scientific theories, and is neither theological nor dogmatic. It places a premium on careful thought and detailed analysis explained in clear and simple language, and presents its ideas and principles as suggestions for consideration based on practical observation and honest examination. It makes liberal use of examples and anecdotes, and though serious in its thoroughness the prose is often humorous and sometimes irreverent.
The first section – Living – deals with an assessment of the way we perceive and interact with our environment, a consideration of the challenges we face and the emotional harm it does us, and the formulating of concepts that may resolve our difficulties and transform our lives. These ideas are presented as a set of simple principles. They propose that our lives are fundamentally compromised by our constant striving to control events in an unmanageable world according to our will and preference, to bring it into accord with the design we have of it, and that we suffer because we are unable to do so. It suggests, therefore, that we ourselves are the cause of our problems, but that changing our perception of the world is a heroic act that might transform the nature of our challenges and our lives. This requires honesty and endeavour, and the questioning of everything we think we know about ourselves. There are a number of clear and simple exercises set out for the reader in these initial chapters to illustrate these general principles, and an assessment of their importance.
The second central section – Learning – is a comprehensive guide to the written inventory that the reader is invited to undertake. As an inventory, it is a structured layout of rows and columns that demand clarity of thought and directness. Column one is a carefully considered list of the conflicts that remain unresolved and the people we resent, and the various roles they play in our lives. The second column seeks to clarify the fundamental cause of the resentment by discounting the superficial, convenient, and sometimes misdirected logic we sometimes use to justify the feelings we have. Column three considers and analyses those aspects of our life or character that were threatened, and the reasons why we have reacted the way we did. Column four begins the process of subjecting the rationales and justifications underpinning our resentment to rigorous examination, and highlights the often fearful and selfish motives behind our actions. Column five focuses exclusively on the truth of our part in the resentment. It identifies the active manner in which we have contributed to the situation, and our sole responsibility for the often deceitful nature of the resentment.
The third section – Loving – reviews the inventory to draw important conclusions about the nature of our personality and our challenges. It discusses those defects of character suggested by the inventory, and proposes a method of synthesizing and summarizing their common themes. Further consideration in the following chapter identifies the fear and insecurity driving every facet of the inventory, before discussing a range of positive and admirable aspects of character that a constructive reassessment of our lives might encourage.
The last two chapters of the book are companion essays. They set out the author’s ideas about the two primary, elemental forces at work in our lives, that of fear and love. They are discussed as archetypes, as universal states of being in opposition. That of fear drives the negative and destructive in us; those fearful and unworthy aspects of our character concerned with managing our environment, securing our well-being, and enforcing our preferences. That of love illuminates and encourages the very best of us and what we are capable of as human beings. It is embodied by grace and generosity of spirit. These two essays draw together many of the themes and principles from the preceding chapters to describe a sensitive and responsive equilibrium between the individual and his environment, and attempts to explain in its concluding pages what that might feel like. The book’s title, Blue, alludes to the imperfection of such a cursory description, one which is understandably self-evident but yet almost impossible to describe.
Blue may be appropriately described as a Self-Help or Self-Improvement book, and appeal to readers attracted to the work of such authors as Eckhart Tolle and Viktor Frankl. The book’s dedication to structured thought and detailed analysis, simple terminology and clear analogy may however suggest a closer affinity with books on practical psychology, popular philosophy, or 12 step approaches to personal problem solving. Because of this, its tone is aspirational rather than inspirational. Its principle aim is the resolution of troubling issues and resentments. Its method is based on rigorous self-analysis and investigation to determine the true source and nature of our challenges. Its objective is not success, empowerment, or achievement as suggested by the works of Stephen Covey or Tony Robbins, but the seeking of a thoughtful and positive reassessment of our relationship with the world, with others, and with ourselves.
Blue is written under a pseudonym. It is a creative project in that i thought of it as a writer (me) writing about a writer (Nicholas Marinelli) thinking about life, and he is envisioned as a fully realized character with his own voice and writing style quite distinct from my own. You can visit his blog and read excerpts of the completed work, or read selected posts here.