Friday, December 14, 2012

A Brave New World

A couple nights ago, I finished reading Aldous Huxley's classic novel, Brave New World. Huxley's work is a fictional, yet prophetical glimpse at the future of society, in which the world is a complete dystopia. My goal here is not to give a detailed summary of the novel (though it was fantastic), but rather to point out a couple quotes. To read a more detailed summary, click HERE, otherwise, here is an extremely short explanation to give you some context.

In Huxley's dystopia world, everything in society is conditioned for the sake of complete stability and comfort. Humans aren't conceived by men and women, but are produced in a factory. From their very beginning, all humans are conditioned (by genetically engineering) to exist in one of 5 social castes. Each person is conditioned to do their assigned task with complete contentment and consistency. In other words, humans are deconditioned to think, feel pain, or experience life. This is all done in the name of stability and happiness. So, a person may be genetically conditioned to be a mindless factory worker, who works his 9-5, then spends the rest of his day enjoying a "soma holiday" (universal drug everybody takes to escape reality and experience euphoria), but, he is completely content, because he has been conditioned not to desire anything else. There is a complete escape from pain. There is a complete escape from feeling for that matter.

What struck me as I read Huxley's book was just how accurate some of his conclusions were regarding humans. In his dystopia, we are not oppressed by an evil power; quite the contrary actually. We willingly choose a society of lifelessness, so long as we don't feel anything and can mindlessly enjoy artificial entertainment. Do we do the same thing today? Is our tendency to pursue stability, comfort, and artificial happiness at the expense of truth, beauty, and life? Here is a quote from one of the antagonists,  World Controller, Mustapha Mond, as he decides whether to have a certain scientific article published or not. In his opinion, the ideas in the article were dangerous to the stability of society.

"It was the sort of idea that might easily decondition the more unsettled minds among the higher castes-make them lose their faith in happiness as the Sovereign Good and take to believing, instead, that the goal was somewhere beyond, somewhere outside the present human sphere; that the purpose of life was not the maintenance of well-being, but some intensification and refining of consciousness, some enlargement of knowledge."

The line about the purpose of life being the maintenance of well-being particularly strikes a chord with me. It seems that most people spend their entire lives pursuing this sense of well-being. We chase a well-being that is completely devoid of what it means to be human. We give our lives to the purpose of ultimate comfort, entertainment, and enjoyment, while we fail to realize the joy for which we were created. We make personal happiness the "Sovereign Good", while failing to realize that our very conception of happiness is dull; it is black and white compared to the vivid stream of color that true happiness presents. We fail to see the true purpose for which we were created and the true happiness for which we were made. Our purpose is not to attain a state of well-being that we may escape pain and live in happiness; our purpose is to know God and enjoy Him forever. 

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