October 11, 2010

“The Spirituality of Dogs” by Gotham Chopra

I’m pleased to welcome special guest Gotham Chopra to Elephant
with this revealing guest article about his new book
Walking Wisdom.

The Spirituality of Dogs
by Gotham Chopra 

There’s something so old fashioned about writing a book. The time it takes to actually write it, the process of getting it edited and published and then the act of hitting the road to actually promote and sell it. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a charm and romance to it, and for a writer/creator there’s nothing quite like holding that hard cover in your hands, turning those crisp pages and seeing your own words in black and white, but…truth be told, you can’t help but feel that maybe you’re part of a slowly dying art.

The fact is that between the time you finish that last sentence in your book and the date on which it comes out, an enormous amount of time goes by. So when that point comes to actually start doing the first interviews, podcasts, and blogs to push the product, it’s quite an odyssey in retrospect and/or revisionism.

In that regard, I’ve been thinking quite a lot about how to answer that inevitable first question “so what’s Walking Wisdom about?” Ideally an author generates a clear and cogent elevator pitch that will result in fantastical rapid sales. Because my book is alternatively dog and Deepak heavy, there’s an obvious pressure to build the marketing of it around one of those two publishing stalwarts. But the truth is both my papa and my overgrown puppy are just means to an end. Really the book is about the search for something more, dare I call it spirituality.

Yikes, probably not what my publishers really want to hear on the eve of the book’s release, because, well spirituality is kind of a taboo word. But hey, it’s the truth. Seriously, put yourself in my shoes: for the last 25 years I have grown up around Mr. Spirituality aka Deepak Chopra (for my prior 10 years, he wasn’t all that spiritual). When my dad first started talking about stuff like yoga and meditation back in the day, people branded him a witch doctor and snake oil salesman. Today – in fact a minute ago – when I Googled “Yoga,” 61,900,000 entries came up. Oh how the times have changed.

But even though the notion of spirituality has become somewhat mainstream, the quest for it still seems tangled in a web of religiosity and cluttered with quasi quantum physics and existential angst. And not to say that at more evolved stages of spiritual pursuit, the search for meaning and purpose is not fraught with deeper questions and explanations, but in the commercialism of spirituality and more overtly the commodity of the New Age (whatever that is), we too often seem to over-complicate things.

On the contrary, Walking Wisdom is really about decoding and demystifying the idea of spirituality. True story: when I originally pitched the book, I titled it Spirituality for Dogs which the eventual buyer, my publisher, quickly dismissed and replaced with our current title which felt more commercial and “mass market.” I hope for all our sakes they’re right. But no matter what the title screams, the pages inside tell the real story. I wanted to call it Spirituality for Dogs because put through the crucible of a mutt like mine, I – and my father who I recruited onto the case – were able to see the values and ethos of this vague and ineffable term spirituality in their most stark and basic form. Qualities like love and devotion, loyalty, forgiveness, present moment awareness, unboundedness and more, these are spiritual qualities that not only don’t require complex or quantum deconstructions, but that are also readily apparent in men’s best friends. There’s something to be said about get a grasp on the simpler things in life before moving onto the trickier ones, and in this case every dog – and even Deepak – gets to have his day.

About those dogs. I’ve had two in my life, our first who died tragically only after 2 years with us and our latest Cleo, a rescue who’s now been with us for over a decade and is still going strong. Both of them have taught us amazing and long-lasting lessons and I really do believe that kids that grow up with animals, both my sister and I and now our respective kids offering up some anecdotal evidence, evolve to be kinder, more compassionate, and aware people. In the process of writing this book, I’ve also learned a lot more about the community of people that feel the same way I do about dogs in particular. And that’s led to some great partnerships including www.freekibble.com who does amazing work to support rescue and shelter animals and whom I urge you to support either by making a donation or buying a copy of the book, a portion of proceeds from which go to Freekibble. I’m also collaborating with scribd.com, who amongst other things, has set up an ebook for users to upload their own stories, pictures, and thoughts on the most important things they have learned from their dogs, dads and other beings in their lives. Please please please participate.

So there you go. That’s the honest, unfiltered, unedited, non market tested truth about what I think my book is about. Apologies in advance if you see me playing the dog or Deepak expert in an effort to pitch the product. That’s what us authors have to do after the fact. But feel free to remind me that at the core of it, this is a book about dads, dogs, dudes, and all those that we love searching for some of the simple things in life before we get onto the murkier ones, at which point by the way I’ll once more happily call in the “big dog” aka Mr. Spirituality to help break it down.

Gotham Chopra

Gotham is the co-founder of Liquid Comics (formerly Virgin Comics and Virgin Animation), a premiere entertainment company based in Los Angeles and Bangalore India. As part of the company, Gotham works with creators to develop graphic novels and is also responsible for packaging and producing the books as they evolve into games, films, and more.

Gotham is the author of four books, including the graphic novels “Bulletproof Monk” for which he also served along with John Woo as Executive Producer on the feature film produced by MGM Studios (2003) and “The Sadhu” which he is also currently adapting as a feature film with the director Tarsem Singh and producer Gianni Nunnari.

Formerly an award winning journalist and documentary film-maker, Gotham reported from countless warzones and has interviewed a wide range of Global leaders – from President Bush to the Dalai Lama. He also served as researcher and lyrical advisor to Michael Jackson on the multi-platinum albums “Dangerous” and “HIStory.”

More recently Gotham was integrally involved in the formation of Current TV, co-founded by former Vice-President Al Gore which launched in in August of 2005. Gotham remains a contributor and key advisor to the network as it continues to re-define and democratize the “television experience.” At present, he is directing a feature documentary entitled “Soul’d Out” which is scheduled to premiere in fall of 2010.

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