Random fact: Arthur Miller was once married to Marilyn Monroe. Like the theme of the American Dream, it didn't last.
This is one of my favorite plays...moreRandom fact: Arthur Miller was once married to Marilyn Monroe. Like the theme of the American Dream, it didn't last.
This is one of my favorite plays of all time. Yes, it's very maudlin to the point of depressing. Yes, there's lots of shouting and bitterness. Yes, it's emblematic of my own family at past points, plus steamed broccoli in the food fight. Just Kidding. We just threw popcorn.
Seriously, I think Miller gives a fascinating depiction of not only American idealism, but also the masculine psyche. The pressure to succeed financially, physically, or sexually is examined through characters who attain and lose these placards. The end seals the deal even though we dread it. It's not as if it's a compete surprise anyway. That sounds a bit calloused, but I understand *why* Miller wrote those final sentences.
The film version starring Dustin Hoffman is also worth seeing - with someone else. Don't watch it alone unless you're ready to start moping around. (less)
So . . . this book caught my interest because Herman Hesse was steeped in German mysticism. The inward problems that Siddhartha faces I relate to on m...moreSo . . . this book caught my interest because Herman Hesse was steeped in German mysticism. The inward problems that Siddhartha faces I relate to on many different levels. The relationship with his son was probably the least identifiable theme for me. Other than than, his distrustfulness of doctrine – of outlines, credence, and words themselves are something I completely understand. Well, not completely, but I know why Siddhartha first turned to asceticism, rather than luxury and physical sensuality and fulfillment, and finally came to a sort of middle ground – what the Buddhist themes call Om, oneness.
The book is unapologetically Buddhist. Yet there are certain points that I would describe as psychological maturity which can be applied in anyone’s life no matter what their official religious beliefs are.
Such points might be:
• Living in the present moment. Eventually Siddhartha tells Govinda in the final chapter that time does not exist. What matters in our minds is the present moment we are living in. Fixation on the future – which can best be a shadow whether optimistic or dar, or regret about past mistakes. Each projection or reversal uses up unnecessary mental energy. This point has been a mental practice I’ve had to consciously adopt in Ireland for sanity’s sake, and one that I need to continue here at home. • The fallibility of doctrine. Many people feels safest in the clear outlines and answers of doctrine. Many people are genuine seekers, and when they come across a doctrine that seems to answer their inner questions, they adopt it. But doctrine is a fallible construction – I believe – because it has human influence, it is a human construction part of theology. Just like the Bible, which this day contains human error because of the practicalities of translation over the centuries from Greek and Hebrew to hundreds of other languages. So Christian ‘doctrine’, Buddhist ‘doctrine’ , even has errors. • What would Buddhist doctrine be by the way? The Om, the perfection of the earth, of humanity, the perfection of the life of cycle which finds complete acceptance and release and rest in the ‘doctrine’ of Om? Is Om a doctrine? • Is Brahman (the Absolute) a Buddhist take on the Western idea of God? And Atman might be the Western equivalent of the human spirit, which in Buddhist terms is seen as equivalent to the Absolute. This has problems, in comparision with Christianity, I am not a goddess on the inside by my own merit. I am in constant progression, and maturing toward a state of perfection in HEAVEN, but I am presently a child of the King, I am presently a goddess if you will, but not by my own merit, by the merit of the purity of Jesus Christ. • Another interesting point: The beauty and necessity of really listening to others. • The Child People: The Child People are to be pitied, and are even despised by Siddhartha until he leaves Kamala and attempts to raise his own son. Despised because of their infatuation with the trivialities of everyday human existence, with food, needs, wants, loves, work, physical tangibility of life, and their disinterest with the ‘higher life’ of spirituality, and inward life, • Siddhartha eventually asserts that the world is not on a road to perfection, nor is it imperfection, but is perfect NOW, in every moment. Listen to this: “Death appears to me like life, sin like holiness, cleverness like folly; everything must be just as it is, everything requires only my assent, only my willingness, my loving approval, and for me it is good and can never harm me. I experienced by observing my own body and my own soul that I sorely needed sin, sorely needed concupiscence, needed greed, vanity, and the most shameful despair to learn to stop resisting, to learn to love the world and stop comparing it to some world I only wished for and imagined, some sort of perfection I myself had dreamed up, but instead to let it be as it was and to love it and be happy to belong to it.” • What did the stream stand for? I think the stream could be seen as the voice of our inner spirits, which speaks of our own inner ‘doctrine’ – a crucial aspect lacking in others around him Siddhartha deplores even in the Samanas. There is no inner coalescion, no inward solidarity, people were instead living vicariously through others, on the teachings and passion and purity of other ‘saints’ and holy people. • I give Siddhartha credit for trying to follow the fountainhead of his own heart, for listening to what was going on inside of him. • At one point, he discards the search for Being – the life Beyond, which lays beyond the visible. The visible world was distrusted before because it could be penetrated and destroyed by thought- a fleeting, ‘deceptive’ veil to be drawn in favor of the higher Absolute reality of the invisible of the inner life. • Self of the Senses----and Self of learning and thought. Both are necessary for Life. Some people go to the extremes of passions and intellect, but the ideal is to partake of both in their portion and measure as needed.
Kamala and Siddhartha are similar in that they both refuse to take on the identities of doctrine of ideas around them. They favor their own inner voice of the heart, but this raises another question: the bible says that even the heart can be deceived.
Is the heart separate from Siddhartha speaks of when he talks of the inner voice? Is the heart separate from the voice of conscience? Is conscience separate from the heart. Conscience, is even this separate from the voice of God speaking to us? These are valid questions not to be ignored. I think there is a very strong possibility that the heart is separate from the voice of conscience, the heart after all – can be deceived. So what is conscience then? I think there is a universal sense of morality – which develops relativity based on a person’s culture, environment, etc, that is implanted within each and every individual. The important idea is that there is a universal assumption of moral sensitivity – however relative – that is in everyone.
Of course, this raises the question of also interpretation. How do we know that we can trust the voice within us? How do we know that it is not our emotions? And how do we know that there isn’t some standard from which to measure and compare with the fluctuations of the heart? Many Christians would say that we have the bible to look to, but what about other topics the Bible is silent about? (less)
A castrated man who is thus consequently doomed in love? How sad . . . it was an insurmountably hopeless read. If he could have made like a lizard and...moreA castrated man who is thus consequently doomed in love? How sad . . . it was an insurmountably hopeless read. If he could have made like a lizard and grown back his nether region, then it might have saved things. However, since this is Hemingway, I don't think the poor guy was destined for such reptilian capabilities. Thus, it lost me. Shallow, I know. So shoot me. After all, Ernest followed suit. (less)
To be honest, the only reasons I picked this up at the library were a) it was was slim and b) I felt duty bound to conquer yet another teeny tiny clas...moreTo be honest, the only reasons I picked this up at the library were a) it was was slim and b) I felt duty bound to conquer yet another teeny tiny classic. Measly sized titles with heavyweight material are sure pickings in my field. : )
It started slow. And it wasn't like the title had me sitting at the table with napkin spread, fork poised, and tummy growling. It was more like being served a seven course meal that patiently, slowly unfolds its flavors over a gastronomical crescendo. Okay, that was wordy. Forgive me. The novella won't be implicated in the same charge. I promise.
What soothed the palate is the old man's inner conversation while at sea. It breaks and lulls the reader's eye like the lifts and falls of the sea itself. It gets choppy (my thoughts *never* stoop to this level), and downright remunerative. But the contemplation can be taken in doses according to your current mood of pensiveness. When the old man hunts the great fish with equal amounts of respect and hatred, you can't help but relate to his ambivalence of an entity he so greatly desires and fears. The man is as fearsome as the thing he hunts with such tenacity.
There's sharks of course. How can you not have a bit of toothy-woothy while at sea? And it sure helped to escalate my own palpitations as I sensed a great, primal battle - not to be confused with my excitement of conquering yet another puny heavyweight. : D(less)
Brave New World is a sci-fi novel published in 1932 about a dystopia – specifically a “Civilization” in the year A.F. “A.F.” designates ‘after Ford- s...moreBrave New World is a sci-fi novel published in 1932 about a dystopia – specifically a “Civilization” in the year A.F. “A.F.” designates ‘after Ford- specifically Henry Ford, the creator of the first automobile, the Model T. This highlights within Brave New World on consumerism, production, and materialism. It values capitalistic outcomes – high numbers- without emphasizing individualism.
Take, for instance, the ideas that are eschewed in the brave new word: solitary existence, monogamy, reading, literature, religion (of any sort), God, families, siblings, old age, wrinkles, viviparous birth (“live” birth), unsynthetic music, the arts, creativity, anything which upholds the individual’s volition and thought process.
Helmholtz Watson and Bernard Marx (Do you think their last names are significant?) form a friendship based on their shared disease with the status quo.
I enjoyed reading about the details of civilization, but the plot itself was a bit underdeveloped. Huxley articulates many problems but does not propose solutions to much of anything. He seems to be speaking through Mustapha Mond in the second to last chapter which is the most didactic. It is a dystopia, after all, one is allowed to go off on civilization’s shortcomings without proposing any viable pragmatic solutions.
John Savage’s death (suicide) is poignant, expected, and true to his character. It is extreme much like his own personality.
The novel is a classic because it is disconcertingly accurate in its societal prophecies: consumerism, genetic engineering, splintering of the family unit (but not relationships),unwelcoming views on old age and visible markers of age, are all issues which our Western society is facing today. Huxley uncannily points out our societal weaknesses, predilections, and desires.
We even have soma equivalents: caffeine, alcohol, sex, romantic relationships, food, power, anything we use to distract ourselves from the pain in our lives.
Our natural impulses are given free play in Huxley’s civilization, which sounds fantastic in theory, but then it occludes the experience of satisfaction of working hard for something. It also creates an emotive safety net, in which we never have to feel rejection, depression, sadness, delayed gratification, or impatience. Everything is handed over in a perfunctory manner. Humans are conditioned according to caste to desire, want, only what Ford can give them. Nothing more.
Hypnopaedia, sleep indoctrination, sets up this mass conditioning process, in the children’s nursery while they sleep and nap.
Nothing is worth fighting for because nothing needs to be fought for. Even love of all sorts, familial, erotic, and romantic is castigated in favor of lustful gratification. Children are encouraged to engage in sexual foreplay and experimentation from a very young age. From adolescence.
I rather enjoyed the didactic chapter gives platform to a lot of Huxley’s ideas. I’m not sure how much of it all Huxley actually agrees with, but I enjoyed Mustapha Mond’s clear-eyed ken of what he was so masterfully overseeing. He knew civilization’s shortcomings. As a former lover of science and the scientific process, he became in danger of being ostracized to some Ford-forsaken island just like Bernard and Helmholtz. He chose instead to stay and inculcate the mind, plan, and doctrine of Ford. He has lost his spark. Science is accepted insofar as it augments Bokanovsky’s process (engineering and conditioning of humans); consumerism, and mass, synthetic (shallow, cookie-cuttered, plastic, lacklustre) entertainment.
But the scientific process, if employed to discover ideas, test hypothesis, and spread iconoclastic ideas outside of Fordism, would be societal travesty. One would be a turn-cost, a betrayer, a back-stabber, a traitor.
In some ways Western society IS like the brave new world, but we still promote individualism. We still allow free reign of singular creativity, conjectures, hypothesis, art, reactions, and ideas. This characteristic is facilitated by the presence of the Internet. One, anyone can blogg, twitter, or facebook their thoughts. Two, people are more likely to communicate and share their unfiltered ideas on the Internet than in-person. Think of it this way: It’s a lot easier to tell someone you like them, or want to break up with them, when you’re typing in front of a computer screen rather than facing the naked reaction of their eyes face-to-face. (less)