“It is not our abilities, but our choices that make us who we are.”
–Albus Dumbledore to an almost-twelve-years-old Harry Potter.
Every day of our lives, almost every minute, we are faced with choices. Should I get up right now or can I manage to stay in bed for five more minutes? Wear the red shirt or the green one to work? Eat an apple for breakfast or have cornflakes? Take the umbrella with me or not? Should I ask her out for coffee today or wait for a more opportune moment? Tell mom I hate the blouse she bought me or let her think I love it? Shift to another city and a better pay or stay here with family?
These may range from merely trivial to absolutely life changing, but at the moment of decision-making, they are all equally momentous.
Makes one wonder what would happen if we didn’t have to choose at all. If we’d just know what to do–just one way to do things, and no other. No decision making involved. Do your thing and don’t worry about what to make for dinner tonight.
Would that make us supermen or automatons?
The air was soon thick with flying gnomes.
–Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
How can anybody outgrow the Harry Potter books?!
If human beings don’t keep exercising their lips, he thought, their mouths probably seize up. After a few months’ consideration and observation he abandoned this theory in favor of a new one. If they don’t keep on exercising their lips, he thought, their brains start working.
Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
“You pierce my soul. I’m half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I’m too late. […] For you alone I think and plan.”
–Captain Wentworth, in the best-loved love-letter of all time in Jane Austen’s ‘Persuasion’.
Do you ever feel that you’re an anachronism? That you’d rather have been born in a time and place where romance was simpler and yet more complex than now? I get that whenever I watch or read period romances. Like I’ve been doing for the past few days. I started with ‘The Lizzie Bennet Diaries’, moved on to ‘Lost in Austen‘, then watched all the four episodes of BBC’s adaptation of ‘North and South’, got worm-holed (my friend V’s expression, I hope you don’t mind me borrowing, V!) into watching my favorite scenes of ‘Emma’ (Jonny Lee Miller playing the gorgeously correct Mr. Knightly), and rounded up by watching Ciaran Hind in ‘Persuasion’. And WOW! I just can’t ever get enough of historical romances in general and Jane Austen in particular.
Amanda Price, I totally empathize with you!
Lost in Austen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
“Let’s think the unthinkable, let’s do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.”
― Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
*Spoiler alert* for ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’
I’m a relatively open minded person. I don’t judge people, don’t take sides. So much so that my friends accuse me of diplomacy. But then I read something like ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’ and all my tolerance goes out the window.
I have read only the first few chapters as yet–Christian has just shown Ana his ‘playroom’–but it all felt so wrong that I had to take a break before I go back to it. And during the break I realized that my open-mindedness was actually self-deception. I’m more conservative than I think, or would like to be.
Come to think of it, I should have realized this earlier. Because I can’t read gay romances either (at least those found on Goodreads), specifically their MSM part. Even though I love the gay couples on TV, e.g. in ‘Modern Family’.
Maybe it’s just fear of the unknown rather than intolerance. Okay, I give in to curiosity. I’ll go back to ‘Fifty Shades..’ now. Test my–at least theoretical–upper limits.
To continue with my (self-congratulatory at best and vain at worst) series of Coursera essays, here is the 340-word essay on H.G.Wells I wrote for my free online ‘Fantasy and Science Fiction’ course.
One of the major elements of science-fiction literature is to attempt to predict or speculate about possible future events which might come to pass if mankind traverses a certain scientific and moral path. Wells, however, forces us to stop on the way and consider the journey itself—what happens when we presume to being enlightened, as the masses in ‘The Star’, but in fact, are as blind as the people of ‘The Country of the Blind’.
“Common-sense was sturdy everywhere” , Wells writes sarcastically. In the face of catastrophe, nine out of ten men on earth are “scornful, jesting, […] inclined to persecute the obdurate fearful” . He even equates common-sense to “barbarism and savagery”; the men, with “unalterable convictions”, scorn the respectable mathematician and go about their businesses unheeding the star. Similarly, the blind men mock Nunez and steadfastly stick to their beliefs—”it was an article of faith with them” . So much so that in order to cure Nunez of what they think are delusions, they decide to surgically remove his eyes and thus make him “perfectly sane” . “Thank Heaven for science”, Yacob says , and again Wells hints at the dangers of vainglory.
In both the stories, Wells warns us against intolerance and self-aggrandizement. Science enlightens mankind so that at any point in time we know more than we did in the past, but we should also realize that knowledge is illimitable, that there are many things we haven’t yet discovered. Just as the blind men lived in a world of their own making and limitations, so can we live either in a blind valley of a world or choose to open our eyes to truth and wisdom. Like the mathematician, we can hold “all the universe […] in the grip of this small brain” , the only requirements are acceptance and humility. Otherwise, one day someone will truthfully say that “Man has lived in vain.” 
 The Star, by H.G Wells
 The Country of the Blind, by H.G. Wells
Posted from WordPress for Android
Filed under Books, Writing