Tuesday, May 2, 2023

The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

Ursula K. Le  Guin (photo: Marian Wood Kolisch)
“The trouble is we have a bad habit encouraged by pedants and sophisticates of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the reason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and terrible boredom of pain.” No this is not a quote from Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem where the philosopher and one- time “bedfellow” of Heidegger coined what would become an infamous term. It’s comes from a dystopian short story by Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.” It’s a jarring repointing of the moral compass in a piece that has the same kind of grotesque denouement as Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.” The author is, in fact, arguing against herself since the story which deals with the darkest elements of human nature, in a particularly disturbing way, gives no hint of the attitude which is, at the same time, prescribed. But if you take it at face value, it does present a rather telling paradox. Laurie Colwin wrote Happy All the Time, but she was an exception in a unverse of writers who might be said to lean towards Voltaire whose Pangloss parodies such optimism in his repeated iteations of Leibnitz’s “all’s for the best in the best of all possible worlds,”--in the aftermath of the Lisbon earthquake of 1755.

read "What Does It All Mean" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "Beachwood 4-5789" by the Marvelettes

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