Ode to The Grand Spirit
Chingiz Aitmatov (1928-2008) and Daisaku Ikeda describe their work,Ode to the Grand Spirit, as a “fireside dialogue” between two weary travelers who have journeyed from afar over very different paths in life. “Thirst and an intolerable hunger torment” them, acknowledges Aitmatov. “I am talking, not about physical hunger, which is easily appeased, but spiritual hunger—the trials of attempting to comprehend existence.”
Thus begins their quest for life’s higher truths, taking them from the roots and reasons that led to the demise of the former Soviet Union, to the fruits and flaws of literature, religion and culture. Together, they explore the ageless struggle between good and evil, both in terms of our inhumane treatment of each other as well as our insatiable drive to subjugate nature, and share an extraordinary breadth of insights on truth, happiness, death and divinity.
Ultimately, inexorably, they are drawn inward, to the human spirit. “For modern humanity to discover the meaning of life and the way to live better,” asserts Ikeda, “we must delve into the eternal aspects of universal life deep within the phenomena of individual existence.”
Drawing on a panoply of anecdotes and thought from the East and West, Aitmatov and Ikeda offer life-enriching perspectives that are as eloquent as they are informative for both the well-read and casual reader.
A celebrated novelist who wrote both in Russian and in his native Kyrgyz, Aitmatov also served as ambassador to the European Union, NATO and UNESCO. He first met Ikeda in 1988 whilst visiting Japan as an ardent advocate and agent for perestroika. “I do not recall how our conversation started,” writes Aitmatov, “perhaps it did not start at all but only continued because we had already been talking to each other even before we met.”