1984, again

So, as I began to say in the last post, I needed to get caught up on some of the classics I'd successfully avoided all my life - unfortunately - or, perhaps fortunately. I mean, who would appreciate such a brilliant novel like 1984 more: a college sophomore who has to read the entire novel in a month and worry about what kind of grade he'll get on the subsequent paper, or an angst-ridden 46 year-old who finds himself reading this oft-touted and oft-praised (kind of interesting that the first two times I've ever used the somewhat-highbrow prefix "oft-" in my life, I use them in the same sentence..... only kind of interesting, though).

Winston Smith is living in a world completely overrun by socialism, or as it's called in Newspeak (a term the book coins, along with the more oft-used * doublespeak) Ingsoc (English Socialism). The book's good, and quite depressing in many ways - though more fascinating than depressing so it's a very good read (as opposed to the brilliant move starring your friend and mine John Hurt, which is just depressing because you can't soften the blow of the events with your mind - that's the thing about movies, it's in your face....)

Which brings me to my point in a roundabout way. I suppose what one would identify most with in this novel would depend on their situation at the time they read it (have you noticed how very formal I've become in writing this, the Classics seem to warrant this tone....). Me, it was the fact that seemingly everyone in the world lived in some kind of illusionary bubble. Oceania is at war with Eurasia. Bombs hit London, and everyone believes the news that they are coming from the enemy. At some point, Oceania changes loyalties and goes to war with Eastasia (I may be getting the order reversed). They change all historical documents and tell everyone we've always been at war with Eastasia. And everyone chooses to believe it's true.

They choose to believe it's true. They don't believe it; they can't, really. The day before they were at war with an entirely different country. Or could they, really, believe it, if that's what they'd been doing for so long? They've scrubbed certain parts of their brain, metaphorically speaking but, hell, maybe in being metaphoric they really did it and I need to end this sentence.

People live with illusions. Some big, some small. They have to. A writer starting out has to believe she is good, or can become good, otherwise her literary career is dead before it starts. A guy has to believe he's worthy of her affection or he'll never ask her out. He might be, but that doesn't matter. He has to believe it. A pilot of a jet has to believe he can control a curved piece of metal with way-odd shaped stubs for wings going faster than SOUND travels - if he doesn't believe it, he's dead, and so is the nice family living in the house his jet crashes into.

On a smaller, but no less important scale, Santa Claus. Brother Paul (see prev entry) was telling me about his issues with jolly old Saint Nicholas now that his kids are getting older. Do they still believe, or not? There is a time when a child stops believing in Santa Claus, the concept is simply too ridiculous to hold any water in their developing minds, but they want to believe, really, really want to - not because if they don't they'll crash into a house at the speed of sound, i.e. get no presents - no, because when they believed as a young 'un it filled them with wonder, joy to see how much bigger and amazing and mysterious the world was where a guy in a red suit could travel the globe and deliver presents in one night. They want to retain that sense of wonder because as they grow and see the world differently - as no less wondrous and exciting, just differently - they still yearn to capture the past, hold the wonder. It's why parents continue to make such a fuss about Christmas and Santa - they want their children to feel the same feeling they did, and in a genetically rountabout way, relive it themselves. (Granted, you need to get over the fact that you are blatantly lying to your children, which you should never do, but just this once you make an exception.... because it's the key to the past).

They want to be as they were before. They want to believe because believing in something is always a good thing. In their case, the illusion goes away eventually, but not because they wandered downstairs and discovered Santa was actually a pervert attacking their cat with things he pulls out of his magic red bag - that would be a destructive loss of belief, a tragic, painful loss of illusion. No, they simply realize the truth, after a year or two of perhaps pretending that it's not truth, in order to hold on to that magic for a little longer. In the end, they realize Christmas is just as fun even without pretending. They can enjoy wrapping presents, going to church and enjoy the religious meaning of the holiday without feeling that baby Jesus is taking all of Santa's press (never a worry there, anyway).

1984 - remember 1984? this blog entry is about 1984 - was interesting in that the whole world make themselves believe, because they felt there was nothing else than what they had. In the end, perhaps there wasn't. Those who showed signs of free-thought disappeared. Terribly. Sometimes, the world a person lives in is so dark, and has been for so long, they don't believe there could be anything else better. Orwell makes it a point to show how some people remember their worlds as better than it was in the present, and these people cling to the hope it'll be better again. And, these people stagnate. Others, like the lowest rung on the food chain the Proles (proletariate), simply don't care, content to live day to day and simply enjoy each other's company, in a way the happiest lot. And then there are those who accept the world as it is, and know they cannot change it so they simply find ways of bucking the system, making no progress, like the Proles, but finding moments of joy. Julia, Winston's secret lover, is like that. She has no illusions, except that there's nothing that can be done to change things. These people seek pleasure, but are also very much defeatists.

People in the world today fall into one or the other category, changing with circumstances. Sometimes we need illusion to ask her out, to fly the plane, to write that novel, but in the end, we need to prove it. Prove yourself worthy on that first date, keep the plane flying, edit the crap out of the book and make it good. Because illusions only go so far. If we can't prove that they are reality, then they may not be. And reality will fly over and pop the balloon. You're not as funny as you think, you need to shower more, you need to change careers, you need to clean the mirror so you can see better who you are, or clean your glasses so you can see better who others are, and why. ...and this is rambling is taking too long. It's like that, roads, life, figuring things out. Long and rambling and wordy.
I don't think I've made the point I wanted, but blogs are like that, aren't they. With a name like 'blog', they don't necessarily have to make sense.

* 3


Anonymous said…
Weird how things seemed to be circular, your brother Paul was over my house on the 26th. Paul and I were talking Sci-Fi and I mentioned the passing of Dan O'Bannon, the story writer of "Alien", on December 17th. Paul mentioned your posting about Alien and our discussion turned to how freaked out he was when he read it which lead me to thinking of how the "Jurassic Park" novel freaked me out so much during a vivid description of raptor attack that I had to read another 100 pages to calm down. Here's how the circle gets completed - I then told Paul that I had finished Solomon's Grave and how reading it reminded me of how I feel when I read a Michael Crichton novel. You both seem to write in scences that make it easy to stop and put the book down but are so well described that it made me excited to keep reading on.

Oh, and you are correct Fish do read - even works by Daniel G. Keohane.

Phil ("Fish") Fisher
Hah, that's so funny. Fish do read. Yea, I thought it was really weird how O'Bannon died just a day or two after my post.... boy, hope it hadn't anything to do with me.

Glad you liked the book! :-)

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