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All this unease about the state of the world got me thinking about what a former shroomery member posted on his forum.
Murple writes: I was in a discussion the other night regarding the ending of Huxley's "Island." If you haven't read it, you may want to not read this thread to avoid ruining the ending. Anyway...
Aldous Huxley is one of my favorite writer/philosophers, and probably comes closer to my own worldview than any other writer I've encountered. The novel "Island" is one of my favorite of his books, and I always saw it more as a philosophical treatise disguised as a novel than a novel with a philosophical basis.
Over the years I've encountered two groups of people who interpret the ending in opposite ways, one negative the other positive. The negative interpretation seems to be the dominant of the two, which I think misses out on Huxley's point.
To summarize the ending for those who don't remember it too clearly, the bad guys end up invading the paradise island of Pala. Many people read this on a purely plot level, and take the ending in the sense of "paradise got destroyed."
I read the ending on a different level, in a symbolic philosophical level. I base this on the ending of the book, as the invaders drive into Pala, past an old Buddha statue on the side of the road:
Quote: The procession crawled on and on, from the right this time, the headlamps of the first armored car lit up the serenely smiling face of enlightenment. For an instant only, and then the beam moved on. And here was the Tathagata for the second time, the third, the fourth, the fifth. The last of the cars passed by. Disregarded in the darkness, the fact of enlightenment remained. The roaring of the engines diminished, the squeaking rhetoric lapsed into an inarticulate murmur, and as the intruding noises died away, out came the frogs again, out came the uninterruptabe insects, out came the mynah birds.
"Karuna. Karuna." And a semitone lower, "Attention."
To me, this expresses a profound and powerful truth so moving that it almost brings a tear to my eye simply to read it again to type it in. I simply don't see the pessimistic ending many do.
The way I read this ending is similar to Gandhi's statement about how the horrors of history come and go - but always, they go:
Quote: When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall -- think of it, ALWAYS.
The "bad guys" in "Island" may win at the end of the book if you read it simply on a plot level - but that isn't the point. The point is that the bad guys are more or less irrelevant. The way I read the ending hinges on the the symbolism in this final paragraph of the book.
The Buddha statue represents enlightenment, and all the positive ideals that the paradise of Pala was based upon. The headlights of the invading armored cars represent the transience of the forces of materialism, greed, destructiveness, ignorance and all the other negative things embodied in the new Raja and the oil company in the novel. The headlights come, they go, just as the evils of history - but always, they pass, and whether they are on or off, as Huxley writes, "the fact of enlightenment remains." The forces of negativity are simply unable to touch the eternal changeless truths of enlightenment. _______________________________________________________________________________________________
I think Murple realy hits the nail on the head here. So don't worry, be happy.
-------------------- Be all and you'll be to end all
Thanks for reviving this interesting thread I had missed.
Quote: Aldous Huxley is one of my favorite writer/philosophers, and probably comes closer to my own worldview than any other writer I've encountered. The novel "Island" is one of my favorite of his books, and I always saw it more as a philosophical treatise disguised as a novel than a novel with a philosophical basis.
Same here, guess where my nick comes from Yeah, it's Huxley who got me into thinking about all this psychedelic stuff and the subtle but radical effects my early LSD trips had on my life. 'The Doors of perception' got me started, and I never stopped since then. A great thinker indeed, even if I can acknowledge his (few) weak points.
Quote: Many people read this on a purely plot level, and take the ending in the sense of "paradise got destroyed."
I have to agree with the point that Huxley intended his ending as more symbolic, but then, I think it's both ways in the end. It's just like life. You can (and do) live it on both levels, the plot level and the symbolic one. I think humanity is heading towards very dark times, and I also do think the fact of enlightenment will remain however. It will remain and be the only refuge and hope for many people. Same on an individual level: I've pondered many times that if I was locked up in jail for whatever reason, the only thing to do for me would be to meditate whenever I can.
The only question that stands for me is if humanity will survive the dark times ahead. But even if it doesn't, maybe "the fact of enlightenment will remain" nonetheless. I have no answer to these two questions. My guess would be "no" and "yes", but I really suck at intuition
Am I being optimistic or pessimistic here? No idea, neither or both, I don't know.
Taken with what Ghandi said I think my point was that dark times will come as they always have. It is pointless to worry overly about it. Even if there was nuclear holocaust I have no doubt that there have been provisions made for a select few insanely wealthy people and with them I believe the fact of enlightenment will remain.
It is strange to think that the US gov (EPA actually) is actually thoughtful and enlightened enough that they spent a lot of time and money to figure out how to keep future civilizations from digging into the WIPP site in NM. The point being that even the great evil beast (the US) realizes it's days are numbered and is taking care to protect future civilizations.
-------------------- Be all and you'll be to end all