Jamie Catto’s Insanely Gifted acts as insightful guidance regarding how an individual should live one’s life. Rather than a one-time read, the work acts as a manual to which readers can refer back, as they consider how they should think and act within society.
As well as being a universal guide on thinking, Insanely Gifted draws on Catto’s own personal experiences: his thought processing and perspective of the world. By drawing on multiple sayings and teachings from a plethora of customs as support for his ideas, Catto sets out to teach us that we shouldn’t be afraid to show the good and the ugly sides of our personality. As equally aspirational as inspirational, Catto’s advice is certainly effective, encouraging readers to embrace their less-becoming traits, and consequently using them as a fuel to propel each and every individual forward.
Jamie Catto, originally a founding member of the band Faithless, has in recent years turned his attention to attending and holding workshops, including ‘transforming shadow groups’, which concern self-discovery. In the book he offers the reader practical help in the form of exercises; all of which are taken from and practised within these workshops. One of these exercises is named ‘Full Body Listening’, and it invites those who partake in it to concentrate and become attuned to the body and the messages it sends to the brain.
Catto cites Taoists as the inspiration for many of his practices, including the doctrine of Yin and Yang. From these ancient teachings he facilitates simple advice concerning what kind of attitude is required in certain situations. Ideas are also taken from writers, such as CS Lewis, and religious teachers, including the Dalai Lama.
One of the most striking aspects of his writing is its pure honesty. A delightfully conversational example of this appears when he writes: “There is a wonderful fairy-tale about a magical wishing tree called ‘Wishes’ written by. OK, it’s written by me, but it’s a good story.” Such an example of his wit is later matched by Catto’s examination of his own demons, particularly when he considers his life post-divorce. By using such a personal and relaxed style, Catto makes his reading accessible and easily applicable to all.
He carefully examines how, growing up, we have yearned for approval from parents and peers, and how this in turn has led to our insecurities. Instead of condoning the negative traits we all possess (though may not admit to), he encourages us to show them. This overturns people’s natural instinct to present a ‘perfect’ version of his or her self.
This message is powerfully summed up in the following comparison: “Some of the greatest and most compelling characters in literature are the villains and the psychos, all born from the darker, less acceptable realms of the writer.” By the same token, “we can be powerful even in the darkest of times.”
Easy to understand, applicable and surprisingly amusing, Insanely Gifted should be read and re-read time and time again, particularly in moments of personal and public crisis.
What this novel has to offer is nothing new; nevertheless, it is about channelling our attributes into taking risks and liberating ourselves from the judgments of others. It is progressive, challenging, and offers an incredibly thought-provoking view of the nature of human beings.
Insanely Gifted by Jamie Catto (Canongate 2016)
Image courtesy of Canongate