Swiss psychologist Carl Jung introduced the concept of synchronicity as an “acausal parallelism” or more simply put a “meaningful coincidence.” The word has been bandied around quite a lot since then, in addition to the final album by the Police, and it seems that the concept is gaining yet more attention as ideas like the Law of Attraction and the Butterfly Effect become more popular. Synchronicity occurs when two seemingly causally unrelated events happen simultaneously and elicit a meaning to those involved, like when you’re thinking of a girl you just met named Amanda and Boston’s song “Amanda” comes on the radio, or you think about a friend you haven’t heard from in a while and they inexplicably send you an email, or the phenomenon known as “Dark Side of the Rainbow” where you play Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” alongside The Wizard of Oz, and it makes sense. Though you may think of many instances in your own life where an instance similar to this has occurred, no book in the literary realm gives such a buoyant look at it as In Search of Simplicity by John P. Haines.
Although it would seem that a book on simplicity could be wrapped up in far less than 400 pages, the account of Haines’ five year sojourn abroad moves along at a relatively brisk pace considering the leisurely method of travel the author assumes. Beginning in his home province of Toronto, Haines gets a contract through Bell Canada to work in Saudi Arabia for two years. As he comes to learn about and appreciate the culture, he inevitably gets a big case of wanderlust and takes off to discover the rest of the world. Hitchhiking his way through a number of third world countries including Papua New Guinea, India, Pakistan, Malawi and more, Haines gets a hefty dose of how the other half lives.
Fortunately for the reader, Haines writes the way he travels. He’s just an all around nice guy who strikes up friendly conversations with just about everybody he meets. Reading his account is like reading letters from a long lost friend. With such a consistently pleasant tone, one could hardly consider his mode of travel as “roughing it.” Even amidst bouts of malaria, a recurring spasm of meningitis, and appendicitis, Haines paints his surroundings and experiences in such a rose colored tint that it almost seems as if he enjoyed the worst ordeals of his journey as much as the glorious climaxes. Perhaps this is the true mark of a Zen master.
Throughout his journey, Haines lives among the impoverished while realizing their true wealth. He works alongside the less fortunate, uncovering the fortune of simplicity. Studying every culture with eyes wide open, he gains a greater understanding of the world around him and his place in it. By taking the journey with him, the reader is able to grow just as much. Never preachy, but always inquisitive, Haines examines the underlying truths of the religious traditions he encounters, leaving the dogma at the door and coming away with the rich morsels of wisdom that can only be gained through true experience.
Opening the readers eyes to a vast array of practices, some well known like meditation and yoga, and some not so popular like imbibing urine and herbal remedies, Haines shares his experiences of not only physical healing, but of spiritual growth. As he progresses in his journey, this idea of synchronicity becomes more and more prevalent. The more he goes with the flow and follows his intuition, giving himself over to the wisdom of the universe, the more coincidences occur. He inexplicably meets the same people over and over again. He sees what Paulo Coelho calls “signs” guiding him along his way. By simply taking part in his journey, he gives the reader an adventure in conscious connection, bringing hope that we can always find our path if we simply open ourselves up to it.
That’s not to say that the book does not have its flaws. The dialogue sometimes comes across as a bit stilted and utilitarian in order to simply carry the story along. And some of the anecdotes come to a hazy conclusion. However, this stems from the fact that it’s just plain honest. It’s just life, and that’s not always wrapped up in a nice, little bow. In spite of the minor flaws one might find along the way, In Search of Simplicity accomplishes its quest.
Steve McAllister is an acclaimed author, filmmaker, actor, and musician. In addition to contributing to Modern Hippie Mag, he also writes InkenSoul, a blog focused on literature and information that promotes commerce, charity, creativity, spirituality, and environmental sustainability. Purchase his most recent novel, The McAllister Code as an e-book at www.themcallistercode.com. Find Steve on Twitter, @InkenSoul. Read his reviews and articles here.