”Oh, wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is!
O brave new world,
That has such people in ’t!”
MIRANDA, Act 5 Scene 1- William Shakespeare, The Tempest
Cyberpunk 2077. This game has been in the talks for a long time, almost 7 years now. It’s like Chinese Democracy from Guns ’N’ Roses or Fear Inoculum from Tool. At the same time, there are long-awaited film productions/remakes planned for Dune, Frank Herbert’s novel, and a TV series based on the almost-prophetic novel Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley.
Here are some of the trending topics of today or yesterday.
Cyberpunk, Hard Rock, Alternative/Progressive Rock, Science-Fiction, Dystopias or Reverse Utopias. What do all of these have in common? The intense feelings of freedom. And revolt.
Today I would like to dwell awhile upon the fragile child born in Godalming, Surrey, England. How else could the young Aldous, born into a family of intellectuals, have ended up? Nominated 7 times for the Nobel Prize for Literature or something like that.
One of the great cultural personalities of the contemporary era, Aldous Huxley, passed away on the very day of John F Kennedy’s assassination, November 22, 1963. On the occasion of a meeting of the writer’s close friends, which has been dedicated to his memory, Yehudi Menuhin performed, in an unforgettable manner, Bach’s Chacona.
The well-known critic David Cecil, summarizing his literary presence, pointed out that in Huxley could be found two strands of grace that had seldomly, before him, intertwined: the refinement of a genuinely vibrant imagination of the cultural treasure of the past, on one hand, and on the other, a scientific curiosity full of dynamism and wide open to any future areas of investigation.
“Indeed,” adds Sir Cecil, “Aldous Huxley occupies a singular and unique position in the literature of our age. He tried his wits in the most different genres, becoming eminent in all of them. He was a brilliant novelist, a subtle literary critic, a commentator of music and art, and a charming essayist. And lastly, in his younger years, a poet full of beauty. In everything he wrote, he combined the gift of a keen mind, enhanced by deep erudition, with the mastery of a literary craft of sparkling perfection.”
Huxley was a convinced pacifist. He also was very interested in mysticism, towards the end of his life, whilst permanently moving to America.
By far his masterpiece, the author’s lifelong preoccupation with the negative and positive impacts of science and technology on 20th-century life, expressed most forcefully the novel Brave New World (1932), whose ironic title evokes a replica of Miranda from the Shakespearean oeuvre The Tempest, is a dark utopia about a world of terror, in which civilization, dominated by technology, becomes incompatible, ultimately, with individuality and human freedom. The “savage” brought from a reservation in New Mexico to seventh-century London “after Ford” is at first fascinated by the new world he discovers, but ends up revolting. Andre Maurois defined this novel as “a terrifying utopia”.
The novel poses a hard question: how would you rather be? Happy or free? And also faces two concepts in the mirror.
Among the most prominent themes of the novel is that of the use of technology to manipulate the population, Totalitarianism, one interpreted differently than in the other major work of his compatriot-George Orwell’s 1984-, and finally, the loss of individuality.
The motifs are taboo for English society, speaking from the historical moment in time of writing the novel: sex without emotional involvement, dehumanization, Henry Ford and the famous soma drug, which taken in different doses, would relieve pain, induce a restful sleep or take you on a trip in very a special place. They’re all tricked into taking that to suppress sadness and to numb feelings. Doesn’t that sound a lot like Xanax? Or Prozac?
Speaking of the actual drug soma, this one existing in real life is a muscle relaxant that blocks pain sensations between the nerves and the brain.
In A brave new world, every baby is created in a test tube, with the help of decantation and scientific reproduction. The babies thus born, will be automatically inserted into one of the five categories of alphas, betas, gammas, deltas and epsilons. Just think about it for a second- doesn’t this sound familiar? Genetic manipulation? Aren’t we already living in an era where this is or could be possible in the close future?
The in-your-face consumerism idea permeates throughout the whole book. Need I say more? Just take your head out of the window. Or try clicking on a link on some random page. Advertisements, aggressive marketing, someone always trying to sell you something. Never has been a concept like consumerism more underlined than in the current times we are living in.
Well, here are some of the reasons that might make you want to have a look over this brilliant novel.
As mentioned earlier, towards the end of his life, Huxley grew really interested in philosophical mysticism. Two of his works from this period stand out from the crowd: The Doors of Perception, which is where the famous band got its name from, and The Perennial Philosophy, that produces an exhaustive analysis of the common points between major religious beliefs all over the globe.
Three years before writing The Perennial Philosophy, he moved to Llano, a settlement on the outskirts of the Mojave Desert, which deeply fascinated him. He was also fascinated by drugs, mescaline, especially. But we’ll leave that for another post.