Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder

sophie worldDo you find yourself always thinking inside the box? Don’t. Because life is unusual and we have to keep wondering to figure it out. Read the first paragraph of Sophie’s World.

Sophie Admundsen was on her way home from school. She had been walking the first part of the way with Johanna. They had been discussing robots. Johanna thought the human brain was like an advanced computer. Sophie was not certain she agreed. Surely a person was more  than a piece of hardware?

This book opened up with this quote. I find myself agreeing with Sophie. The first paragraph makes me thinking out of the box. The human brain is very very different than a computer. ‘An advanced computer’. Johanna had said. But unlike computers, we can feel, we have emotions. Computers may compete with humans with knowledge and limitations, but computers will never be like a human brain.

Sophie is a very normal, 14 year old girl. But it changes ever since a mysterious paper, telegram, and post card appears in her mailbox, one day. Inside the paper, there are two questions: “Who are you?” and “Where does the world come from?” Sophie finds herself annoyed with the questions, as she could not answer them. (Me too, Sophie, me too). Then she reaches out towards the telegram.

… A white rabbit is pulled out of the top hat. Because it is an extremely large rabbit, the trick takes millions of years. All mortals at the very tip of the rabbit’s fine hair, where they are in the position to wonder at the possibility of the trick. But as they grow older, they work themselves into the fur. And there they stay. They had became so comfortable that they never risk crawling back up the fragile hairs again. Only philosophers embark on this perilous expedition to the outermost reaches of language and existence…

Sophie and I… of course… have been twisted on our arms, and pull right up onto one of the fragile hairs of the rabbit. What both of us realize after reading this paragraph we are the mortals who had settled down in the lush fluffy white fur of the rabbit. What we believe is that the writer of this telegram must had been a philosopher.

Or not?

This is a novel about the history of philosophy. I have learned about Socrates and Plato and Aristotle at school, under the topic Greek Philosophy, but never this detailed. Aristotle has a strong belief that women are lacking something from men; while Plato, writing down all his thoughts in the book Epistles and other twenty five philosophical dialogues. Socrates, people said he was wisest men in Greek, but he believed he was never close to wise. And they killed Socrates by making him drank Hemlock. Ironically, 2500 years later, everybody is regretting his death. The ‘he could have taught us more’ speech must be heard throughout the world.

I’m eleven year old year old who’s familiarity to philosophy is limited to my school book, not that I am taught at an expensive college. Sophie’s World is enchanted for it’s purpose: to introduce people to the basics of philosophy in fascinating way. Gaarder suceeds wonderfully in doing that. Sophie’s World is that kind of book, not just another overanalysis of Kierkegaard or Sartre which might as well be written in Latin, Sophie’s World is a book for ordinary people (or teenagers like me) who want to understand the world of philosophy, and hey, even if you have studied philosophy, this book will be thought provoking, if only because it makes you think about what you have studied.

After reading this page-turning book, I come up to a question, that made me feel dizzy. Is God a writer, writing down our lives? Sophie’s story was written in a book and given to Hilde, who was in the second half of the book; then we are reading Hilde’s story. And what about us? Who is reading our stories? It is a very very confusing cycle.

All the stars and galaxies in the universe are made out of the same substance. Parts of it had lumped together, some here, some there. There can be billions of light years between one galaxy and the next. But they all have the same origin. All stars and planets belong to the same family.

Everything in this world is created by the big bang. We are all connected, without knowing it. And perhaps, after reading this book, I am quite high on the rabbit’s thick fluffy fur. Sophie’s World will be an excellent read for anyone with a curiosity about philosophy, but who finds the whole thing a bit intimidating. I have not related to any book more than I have to this one. Every page is mind blowing.

I have read many of Jostein Gaarder’s books before. So Sophie’s World is not the first book. The Christmas Mystery is my first taste of philosophy, continued to The Solitaire’s Mystery as the third one, and also Through the Looking Glass, Darkly. After reading most of the books, I do like Gaarder’s style of writing. I knew Gaarder is a Norwegian from the novels I read. He has recieved many awards to the many philosophical books he wrote. And oh, by the way, the name ‘Sophie’ comes from the word philosophy. Really, the name itself turns me on to philosophy.


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