Wednesday, February 22, 2017

From My Reading, 2/22/17

I started, but never finished, reading George Orwell's 1984 in high school. Eventually I will get back to it, but I am glad now that I read this first. 

From Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley:

"But why is it prohibited?" asked the Savage. In the excitement of meeting a man who had read Shakespeare he had momentarily forgotten everything else. 

The Controller shrugged his shoulders. "Because it's old; that's the chief reason. We haven't any use for old things here."

"Even when they're beautiful?"

"Particularly when they're beautiful. Beauty's attractive, and we don't want people to be attracted by old things. We want them to like the new ones."

A little later in the conversation, the Controller explains why none of the new things written can be like "Othello":

"Because our world is not the same as Othello's world. You can't make flivvers without steel--and you can't make tragedies without social instability. The world's stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can't get. They're well off; they're safe; they're never ill; they're not afraid of death; they're blissfully ignorant of passion and old age; they're plagued with no mothers or fathers; they've got no wives, or children, or lovers to feel strongly about; they're so conditioned that they practically can't help behaving as they ought to behave. And if anything should go wrong, there's soma. Which you go and chuck out of the window in the name of liberty, Mr. Savage. Liberty!" He laughed. "Expecting Deltas to know what liberty is! And now expecting them to understand Othello! My good boy!"

The Savage was silent for a little. "All the same," he insisted obstinately, "Othello's good, Othello's better than those feelies."

"Of course it is," the Controller agreed. "But that's the price we have to pay for stability. You've got to choose between happiness and what people used to call high art. We've sacrificed the high art. We have the feelies and the scent organ instead."

"But they don't mean anything." 

"They mean themselves; they mean a lot of agreeable sensations to the audience."

"But they're...they're told by an idiot."

"The Controller laughed. "You're not being very polite to your friend, Mr. Watson. One of our most distinguished Emotional Engineers..."

"But he's right," said Helmholtz gloomily. "Because it is idiotic. Writing when there's nothing to say..."

"Precisely. But that requires the most enormous ingenuity. You're making flivvers out of the absolute minimum of steel--works of art out of practically nothing but pure sensation."

The Savage shook his head. "It all seems to me quite horrible."

"Of course it does. Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the overcompensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn't nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand."

*     *     *

More and more I find myself wondering what we are buying, and buying into. How normal it seems in this corner of the world to expect and demand comfort and ease. How natural it seems to be to allow oneself to behave and be treated as first and foremost a consumer. How often I hear people confusing education with job-training. Does it raise a fight in you, the way it does me?

*     *     *

My other offering today, something old and beautiful. Spent, I suppose. But look:

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  1. Does it raise a fight in me? It sure does. A bigger fight than I've ever felt in my life. Thank you for these posts. XOXOXO

    1. Mailizhen, your fight totally inspires me, and keeps me going when I get worn out. Thank you, too! <3


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