Friday, June 13, 2008

When I get that oceanic feeling...

NOW FINISHED: Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler

Did I mention I like being able to read books? And by that I mean complete books. In their entirety. Not hundreds of assigned pages from a casebook that totals more than a thousand pages. That just leaves me feeling incomplete and empty inside. I think I am going to finish ten books this summer -- maybe more.

In the end, Darkness at Noon is really good and I even recommend it. It's a great examination of why the revolution failed. It doesn't really matter which revolution -- although in this case it's basically about Russia without flat-out admitting it's about Russia -- because Koestler adequately points out how every revolution pretty much fails.

It's all about the relative maturity of the masses. As Rubashov nears his sentence and thus the end of his life, he reveals and wishes he had more time here on earth to contemplate this theory. Basically, people aren't ready for revolution - or any system - when it comes. So, for example, the steam engine came along and totally changed society, and this is a relatively new thing, so as Rubashov puts it (this being the first half of the twentieth century), "The people of Europe are still far from having mentally digested the consequences of the steam engine" (p. 172). Whereas in a politically mature time, when generations have become comfortable with a socio-political-economic system, the masses can better understand it.

This is all very interesting political theory, but I rather like thinking of it in terms of a certain political candidate and a certain way of mass communication/fundraising/social networking etc we have seen take off recently in our (global) society:

"In periods of maturity it is the duty and the function of the opposition to appeal to the masses. In periods of mental immaturity, only demagogues invoke the 'higher judgment of the people.'" (p. 173)

But enough about Obama. Onto Lost:

At the very end, while in his cell awaiting death, Rubashov talks about the "oceanic sense," a feeling of connectedness and oneness, a transcendental kind of state, of contemplation or ecstasy or both, in which "one's personality dissolved as a grain of salt in the sea; but at the same time the infinite sea seemed to be contained in the grain of salt" (p.260).

This immediately got me thinking about Lost and the "Oceanic Six." Koestler cites Freud, though not by name ("the greatest and soberest of modern psychologists," Rubashov muses) as the source of this term "oceanic sense." A quick check of Lostpedia shows they've picked up the Freud reference, from Civilization and its Discontents, but I think Darkness at Noon and Koestler's take on it deserve some attention from the Losties, too.

1 comment:

Kim Diaz said...

OK - Which Lawrence, dammit?