Saturday, January 28, 2006


Over the last couple months, and in particular over the last few days, a surprising number of people I know actually complimented me on my writing on the basis of this blog. Surprising only {grin} because I haven't really gone out of my way to advertise this page since I still feel like I'm finding my way around language which is neither meant to communicate face-to-face, nor be something intensely personal, but something in between. But still keeping it real for the most part.

Good. My experiments in playing with words are paying off. Now all that remains is for someone to be impressed enough to offer me a million-dollar book deal, a nationally syndicated newspaper column, and/or his/her virginity, and then it'll all have been worth it.

In the meantime, since I'm feeling lazy, here's a cross-post from an email I sent to an egroup I belong to. I'm posting it here mostly because I wrote it late at night a couple days ago when I was kinda spaced out, next morning went back and reread it and actually liked it. Like I've said before, sleep hormones are my personal LSD.

Appending the thread to this post, including two emails from friends which got me started. You'll need to read at least the Omelas link to get context.


> Abraham Thomas wrote:
> >
> > Read this:
> >

> > Do you think people should give away large sums of money, as Singer
> > advocates?
> >
> > Now read this:
> >

> > Do you think people should walk away from Omelas?
> >
> > If your answers are NO and YES respectively (as most people's are), then
> > are
> > you being consistent?
> >
> > Or to put it in somebody else's words: how can it be right to sentence
> > hundreds of children to painful deaths to keep one person moderately
> > happy,
> > but not right to subject one child to misery to keep a whole society
> > ecstatically happy?
> >
> > t.
> >

--- In, Sameer Siruguri wrote:
> My answers are NO and NO, so I am in the clear anyway.
> Even if they weren't, I think the juxtaposition is unfair because it sets up
> a situation fraught with uncertainties with one defined by certainty. If I
> absolutely know for certain that this one kid's sorrow will ensure my
> society's happiness, of course, I will let him suffer.
> In the other case, we don't absolutely that giving aid is not a good
> solution in the long-term, or that the money I give will eventually reach
> the intended recipient, given the faulty mechanisms we have today. In the
> face of this massive uncertainty, most decisions will be morally equivalent.
> Something about the long tail here, that I don't have time to address, as I
> have to run to catch my train...

Sidharth Jaggi to sindar

Hmm - my answers, really, would be maybe and maybe. unlike sam (or sa-mirr as he would have some of us call him :), i don't know that i view either situation as absolutes (in omelas, what do I care about society? i'm a selfish being, and perhaps it matters more to me to do whatever makes me feel good in the short run (common human reaction anyway), which might go any of at least three ways. besides, change can be a good thing - eden'd get frigging BO-RING after a while. and as for the bengal famine article, if you read to the bottom you read the foot-note about how it was resolved (if you didn't already know) - not a black-and-white answer)

if you try phrasing the scenarios in strictly logical terms with absolutes instead of situationals, then, of course, i'd cry "cheating", 'cos you're dealing with reality, where emotions matter.

shades of gray, gentle(wo)men, it's all shades of gray in my pre-kodachrome world.

btw, i think that LeGuin (as usual) has done a brilliant job capturing a mood, a single "moral". except i'm not quite sure what.

where could the story have gone, if she'd spent another few pages and made it into a book? maybe it'd focus on the person who eventually disturbed narnia? (mixing fantasies, would (s)he be naïvely brave like frodo? or all-knowing like gandalf? any which way, the elves' days were done. maybe it'd be aragorn, not gormlessly fading away when his deed was done.) or maybe it'd concentrate on the secret autobiography
of the child, an all-knowing machiavellian jesus who knows the value of visible suffering in holding societies together. how about the point of view of the few nameless travellers, leaving a christian heaven to enter a hindu life... for one turn of the wheel? maybe it'd be a reality show-style peek on religion, and the dynamics of an agnostic adult embracing an unprovable faith. maybe it'd be a behind-the-scenes monologue by the inscrutable being who set it all up (more philosophy professor than LeGuin, but still).

day-um, it'd've been a good book.

hmm - is it... messed up that I identify so much more with the fantasy situation than the real one?
sidharth "morally ambiguous, and off to bed" jaggi


You may or may not have been interested in the ethics discussion (if not, think of it as a character-building exercise). But surely LeGuin's Omelas took your breath away?

I always KNEWED I should've been a novelist. I can see the NYTimes review now - "Obscure post-doc steals someone else's idea and writes inscrutably obfuscated fantasy novel combining pop-cultural references with half-baked philosophy."


Blogger കണക്കൻ said...

Is there a fully baked philosophy?

2:38 PM  

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