Το Heathrow είπε στον Αλαίν ντε Μποτόν να μείνει μια βδομάδα στο ανακαινισμένο και ανανεωμένο αεροδρόμιο (ή μήπως ήταν καμιά καινούργια πτέρυγα; Βαριέμαι να τσεκάρω) και να γράψει, όπως είναι της μόδας να λένε πλέον και στο Amazon, «μια ειλικρινή κριτική» (“an honest review”). Ο τύπος, όπως συνήθως, όπως έχει κάνει στην Τέχνη του Ταξιδιού και στο Consolations of Philosophy (αυτά του κυρίου έχω διαβάσει) παίρνει πράγματα πεζά και τα αναπτύσσει μέχρι εκεί που δεν πάει, φτάνει στην καρδιά του θέματος. Σε μια απολαυστική πλατωνική στροφή, σαν να αγγίζει τον Κόσμο των Ιδεών έχοντας μόνο στη διάθεση του την Σκιά στον τοίχο της της Σπηλιάς. Πολύ λίγοι άνθρωποι έχουν αυτή την ικανότητα να φτάνουν στο γενικό από το ειδικό τόσο δεξιοτεχνικά χωρίς να αφήνουν από τα μάτια τους τις λεπτομέρειες του συμβάντος ή του θέματος στο οποίο έχουν εστιαστεί.
Δεν συμπαθώ πια τα αεροδρόμια όπως όταν ήμουν μικρός που όνειρο μου ήταν να μένω σε ένα, ακριβώς όπως το Χήθροου πλήρωσε τον κο Ντε Μποτόν να κάνει, όμως ο τελευταίος με τη γραφή του και με τις όμορφες φωτογραφίες του συνεργάτη του που συνοδεύουν το κείμενο με έκανε να σκεφτώ πως όσο ακόμα και το πιο τυπικά άψυχο μέρος όσο ένα αεροδρόμιο χρησιμοποιείται από ανθρώπους, τόσο οι ιστορίες τους, ο πόνος και η χαρά τους θα βρίσκει άλλο ένα κανάλι για να εκφραστεί και το άψυχο θα παραδοθεί στη ζωή. Αναγκαστικά. Και αυτό είναι κάτι το πολύ αισιόδοξο όσο ο κόσμος κάθε μέρα γίνεται όλο και πιο άψυχος, γιατί πολύ απλά το άψυχο με το χρόνο θα σπάσει, σαν το μπετόν μέσα από το οποίο απλά φυτρώνει γρασίδι και φυτά και η ζωή επανέρχεται.
In my mind, David Wong practically is Cracked.com, and that’s where I first found out about his book John Dies at the End. Was it from the podcast? I don’t remember. Unsurprisingly, and not unwelcomingly (if that isn’t a word, it should be) it read just like his website: a pop and geek culture reference mishmash, teeming with intelligent factoids and random trivia sprinkled around the narrative, gruesome deaths, rich descriptions of unimaginable horrors and most importantly, lots of laughs: belly laughter, giggles, snorts, a mix of clever geek humour with an absurd twist—call me Douglas Adams— penis jokes… Yes, it is Cracked: The Funny Horror Novel.
I’m not giving it five stars because I’m sure I won’t remember too much of it down the road, i.e. it wasn’t memorable per se, or maybe it was too dense with quips and gags. Besides, there’s only so much exploding Lovecraftian monsters (“The ultimate evil in the universe that human minds cannot comprehend!”) you can fit in a few pages before it gets a bit too much, a bit too heavy, like drinking a bottleful of Soy Sauce, the drug of which a tiny consumption is the root cause of our heroes’ encounters with the other side.
Those characters weren’t that great, either, and that’s another reason why the book won’t stick with me. Then again I would never say that Douglas Adams’ strong point was his characters, but The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy wasn’t worse for it, or at least the weak characters added to its distinct style. Why shouldn’t it be the same with John Dies at the End then?
Since we’re back to John, I’ll admit I wouldn’t mind having a friend like him. Come to think of it, so does Wong, probably, and I’m not ruling out the possibility that he wrote this book just as a way to flesh out his cool imaginary friend/alter ego.
…scratch that, actually. I just checked, and John exists as much as Dave does, or at least the template for John in Wong’s head exists, but still. I mean, he himself, the writer, is the protagonist; do you think he’d be above doing something like that?
(some more Wikihopping later)
What?! Did you know that Cracked used to be a real magazine? Printed, sold and everything all the way back to the ’50s? I had no idea!
The Game, pickup artists, the art of seduction and all that is something that has fascinated me for a while. The pretension of it all, really. It’s so different from the WYSIWYG way I believe I usually project myself; foreign, yet with a certain unmistakable allure: imagine being able to seduce anyone! How can people live like this, moving from woman to woman without any emotional attachment? Do they feel omnipotent? How can they lie, or rather bullshit so exquisitely? Do they ever get impostor syndrome, or can only narcissists and megalomaniacs immune to impostor syndrome really excel at seducing? Who are these guys anyway? Don’t they ever stop, look at themselves and wonder what they’re trying to prove? Probably not, right?
Turns out the techniques work like clockwork, like Jedi mind tricks on stormtroopers, but even if you mingle with celebrities for a living, like Strauss did before sitting down to write his story, at some point you will either (or both): a) get tired of casual sex with bimbos without any lasting connection and seek something deeper; b) meet your seduction match who will drive you crazy because what she wants is the real you and trying to seduce her by the Playbook amazingly turns her off, and by the time you realize the fact you’ve almost lost her for good.
Still, listening to this book worked as a mood enhancer for me. I speculate it was the effect well-known to us self-improvement book readers of getting a high merely from visualising a change in your life by following the advice suggested instead of actually following it, which, it should be noted, often leads us readers never taking the steps necessary for change to take place, satisfied from the imagined high we’ve just had. Second-hand success stories almost work just as well, and this is essentially what you get here: “look at the self-proclaimed loser get all the chicks he’s never had! I could do the same, if I chose to!”
But would I ever choose to be that guy? I wonder: by not playing The Game because I believe it’s dehumanising and pathetic and that self-confirmation and self-worth come from within, not from forgetting how many women you’ve tricked into falling for you, am I really just displaying my “mediocrity” as a man, my “beta”-ness? That’s definitely what a player would say about me. But is it because I’m scared of pulling it off that I’m shunning seduction, or could it be that, since I don’t need conquests to feel desirable or indeed complete, I am already “ahead of The Game”, the very place pickup artists go all this process through to reach?
To be honest, close to half the enjoyment I got out of The Game I got from the narrator and the way he switched accents between Neil and bimbos, Mystery and Style, tones of voice etc. Here you can find a sample. Actually, not just a that: by looking for a sample I ended up with a link to the full thing (which might not even be with us for long, judging by Youtube’s policies) and realised by looking at the comments that what I listened to in the end wasn’t even the full version of the book! Come to think of it, I did just finish it in a couple of days…
Some books I only review because of the sort of benign OCD I’ve developed that compels me to write something about every book I read; withothers I can’t stop myself from going all-out, even if I didn’t enjoy reading them enough to award them 5 stars to begin with. With psychology and typology (personality type) books, the latter is almost always the case. Perhaps to a fault, I might add, for the wall of text lying beneath is arguably not the optimal way of transmitting this, let’s face it, difficult information. Still, I’m a reader rather than a video watcher… but I’m not the only one. ♪
As a review this probably won’t work, but that said: what if I finally accept that it’s not me writing a review here, but taking the opportunity to process, share and, in typical Hallographic style, lovingly re-transmit the fascinating information, empathy and communication skills this book filled my mind and attention with, at least for a time?
Some books might not be for everyone or even five-star worthy as far as reading pleasure is concerned, but they do contain valuable ideas absolutely worth spreading, writing and talking about.
Watch me embracing the fact that this is not going to be a review.
I read Please Understand Me II on my Android on .pdf. It is David Keirsey’s definitive 1998 update to his original 1984 Please Understand Me. He himself was (he died in 2013) the personality psychologist who created the Keirsey Temperament Sorter (link to the test as it appears in the book, it’s worth the manual effort to complete) and the Four Temperaments typing system. It shares its name with Hippocrates’ and Galen’s original four temperaments theory, which has for millennia sorted people’s personalities into choleric, phlegmatic, melancholic and sanguine.
This archetype has survived to this day in its original form and has thus proved rather durable, along with various other ancient and medieval derivatives, albeit few people consider them as valid typological systems anymore (I’m of two minds about being a Nymph, according to Paracelsus). From Wikipedia’s article on the Keirsey Temperament Sorter:
Keirsey’s Artisan, Guardian, Idealist and Rational types have come a long way indeed since the time Hippocrates classified people by their over-secretion or lack of certain human bodily fluids: the system was developed upon many decades of research, observation, counseling and comparing the behaviour of his clients. It is not the only typology system to have been built on observation and the scientific method, but it differs from others in the fine points.
To be exact, whereas the Enneagram on the one hand—to name my favourite such system—separates people into nine categories based on their preconceived deficiencies of character, sources of insecurity and ambitions, and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator on the other, probably the most well-known and used such system around the world, sorts people into sixteen categories by the order of preference of their eight types of Jungian cognitive functions, it is a person’s outward behaviour that goes to determine their Keirsey temperament.
Because Keirsey worked with Myers and Briggs and his system of typology is understandably an extension or “expansion” to theirs, his four types are basically the sixteen MBTI types divided by four. He noticed similar behavioural patterns between certain types and identified the connectors as the common letters in the types’ names, e.g. the INFP and the ENFJ are both intuitive and feeling types, which makes them both Idealists, while Guardians are SJs, meaning ESTJs, ISFJs and so on.
If you’re at all familiar with Jungian cognitive functions, you might know that the four core cognitive functions (thinking, feeling, intuiting and sensing), farther multiplied by two by being either extraverted or introverted in nature, are fundamentally separated into the perceptive ones, the ones we use to take in information about the external world (sensing/intuiting) and the judging ones, the ones we use to make decisions (thinking/feeling). The two letters comprising the name of the Keirsey temperament denote the combination of an individual’s preference in both perception and judgment.
Thus, for instance, NFs primarily take in information from the external world by using their iNtuition, and they mainly take decisions using their Feelings. NTs, respectively, also take in information about the world using their iNtuition. However, they do not primarily use their feelings to make decisions as the NFs do, but rather use their Thinking function.
It would follow that the four Keirsey types should be NF, NT, SF and ST, and indeed, before Keirsey came along, Myers and Briggs used to separate the sixteen types as so. Nevertheless, Keirsey did come along and observed that SPs and SJs bore far more behavioural similarities to each other than STs and SPs did. He incorporated his findings to his four temperaments theory and thus drew the blueprint for what I believe to be the MBTI 2.0.
Actually, maybe not an MBTI 2.0, because by itself the MBTI is still quite usable. In case however one wishes to combine different systems of typology in order to make more complete or nuanced profiles for people— combining the Enneagram with the MBTI so as to have an overview of both a person’s ambitions, fears and behavioural patterns, for example—i.e. for the purpose of synergy, the Keirsey Type Sorter works far better than the MBTI and in any case it can be a very effective, hard and fast way of identifying a person’s type; you can usually tell fairly easily and intuitively which temperament a person is, whereas with the MBTI and its sixteen whole different types it can be difficult and in any case requires a lot of experience.
The benefits of typing people themselves and why one would want to do it I’ll leave for another time, but I’m sure you can fill in the gaps depending on your own needs for better communication.
What I still haven’t got into at all is how this whole Keirsey thing works.
As mentioned earlier, Keirsey’s theory is only indirectly focused on cognitive functions. Rather, he speculated that, on one hand, people’s behaviour can be separated into two categories according to their use of language and expression: either specific/concrete or generalising/abstract. This often translates into “detail-oriented/pragmatic/moving from the specific towards the whole” and “big-picture/theoretical/moving from the whole towards the specific”, respectively.
This screenshot might help with developing the concept of abstract vs. concrete speech in your mind (pardon the peculiar white balance; I was reading in bed at that moment and had Twilight activated):
People who are cooperative pay more attention to other people’s opinions and are more concerned with doing the right thing. People who are pragmatic (utilitarian) pay more attention to their own thoughts or feelings and are more concerned with doing what works. There is no comparable idea of Myers or Jung that corresponds to this dichotomy, so this is a significant difference between Keirsey’s work and that of Myers and Jung.
The pragmatic temperaments are Rationals (pragmatic and abstract) and Artisans (pragmatic and concrete). The cooperative temperaments are Idealists (cooperative and abstract), and Guardians (cooperative and concrete). Neither Myers nor Jung included the concept of temperament in their work. Jung’s psychological functions are hard to relate to Keirsey’s concepts.
In Please Understand Me II, Keirsey goes through not only the fundamentals of his theory and the characteristics of each type, he also has separate sections and detailed overviews for each subtype (the following is for INFPs/Healers);
breakdowns of each type’s strong and weak skills:
further breakdown for best-suited job in “diplomacy”-oriented fields, the NFs’ specialty (which include teaching, counseling, championing, “healing”, doing reconciliatory, cross-disciplinary work, e.g. between science and metaphysics, to name a pertinent example that fascinates me personally, etc):
A little clarification is in order here: NFs are natural diplomats and horrible tacticians — that could be why I love the big map in Total War games, enjoy Diplomacy (the game) and Dixit, tend to royally suck at the tactical battles in Total War and am absolute garbage in StarCraft II. SPs, on the other hand, are the complete opposite, and you can tell how SPs are poor at diplomacy, since they’re usually the types who most refuse to seek common ground or look at things from a different perspective, but are very good at looking at things practically due to their concrete/utilitarian duality. Conversely, NTs are great strategists and poor logisticians, while SJs are the opposite.
The following analysis goes on to portray common interests for each type (notice how Idealists “will be drawn to the humanities and might dabble in the arts and crafts but rarely stick with that sort of thing long enough to become more than enthusiastic amateurs“—professional artists are, more often than not, Artisans, due to their sensory, present-oriented nature):
or the way in which the different types have completely different orientations connected to time, the past, present and future, and which of these they favor. Note that Rationals understand time as intervals: “for them, time exists not as a continuous line, but as an interval, a segment confined to and defined as an event. Only events possess time, all else is timeless.”
What distinguishes Please Understand Me II as an actually usable book is that, on top of everything else, it has detailed, separate sections on temperaments and parenting, leading people and romantic relationships. The latter I found particularly interesting: Keirsey writes that one of the major reasons many romantic relationships tend to fail is that partners make Pygmalion projects of one another, that is, we consciously or subconsciously try to make partners into mirror images of ourselves. If we first understand, then accept our partner’s temperament, Keirsey suggests, the relationship could only benefit from it and remain stable.
Furthermore, compatibility between temperaments vary: apparently Idealists and Rationals are natural fits, because we can understand each other’s abstract way of communication and perception intuitively—deep conversations, big ideas, little appreciation for small-talk, that sort of thing. However, due to both types being rarer than concrete Guardians and Artisans (for reasons unknown, concrete communicators are roughly double in numbers than abstract communicators—we’re precious little flowers, we abstracts), those types usually have a hard time finding well-suited mates.
I, for one, have been told that if some of my male Rational friends were female I’d fall for them hard, so there’s that…
Moving on, the chapter on temperament and parenting I found interesting as well, i.e. how parents value different things in raising their children depending on their own temperaments. For example, an Artisan parent will want their child to possess many different useful skills and will try one way or another to transmit them to it (long hours at language schools and martial arts classes?); a Guardian parent will value security and stability above all else (urging their child to settle), whereas a Rational parent will try to inspire in their child a sense independence from other people and external influence.
Where this often goes wrong is that parents not only make Pygmalion projects our of their partners, they do so for their children as well, and so typically fail to take their child’s own temperament into account when it comes to its upbringing and relevant important decisions. This can and will alienate the child and make it feel unloved or that it has to constantly prove itself, among a slew of other avoidable psychological complications and complexes.
Interestingly, as far as we can observe and Keirsey claimed, temperament is not hereditary: it is determined at birth, does not follow parental patterns and is permanent for life. It is sort of arbitrary, selected at random at “character creation”, you could say. I find that little fact absolutely fascinating: that a big part of who we are is “predetermined”, despite the term being taboo in contemporary psychology and behavioural science.
What a parent can do to make sure that their child will thrive and not develop insecurities and low self-esteem because it feels as if it cannot fulfill its parents expectations, is identify their child’s temperament early on—it’s usually quite obvious from the 3rd or 4th year—and move with the temperament’s forces, not away from them or even against them: encourage their child to be itself, not what the parent would like it to be.
I can easily imagine a Rational parent, for example, being hard on their Artisan child for not being logical or even clever enough, or an Idealist parent trying to make their Guardian child more “alternative”, when the child just won’t stray from the mainstream. What the parents could be failing to see is that their children might have green fingers or a well-developed sense of honour and duty, respectively. Oh, the woes of an Idealist parent when their Guardian child wants to uphold the law for a living!
I’ve gone on long enough already. I will conclude this little here review/essay/introduction to Keirsey by saying that if psychology, communication and human relationships interest you at all, Please Understand Me II and Keirsey’s work in general is a must-read. Together with the Enneagram, typology can be a very powerful tool for understanding people, living and working better with them and, as important as ever, understanding and identifying one’s own worth and learning to go with, not against, one’s own temperament—one’s own nature.
PS: At some point while going through this book, I realised that my room-mates and colleagues in Sofia City Library and I were all different temperaments. An Idealist, a Rational, a Guardian and an Artisan all under the same roof! My memories of Zanda, Vicente and Maria and living together with them for nine months have been useful for imagining each temperament’s traits more concretely. Thanks guys!
I tried practicing polyamory a few years ago, back when I had minimal experience with intimate relationships. It came to me as a concept naturally back then, and I still think it’s a great idea if you can find the right people who will be willing to try it out with you on their own volition (obviously you can’t force anybody into it).
Back in the day I made a lot of mistakes. I couldn’t make it work and ended up psychologically beaten up and scarred. However, it ended up being one of my most significant growing experiences, and surprisingly it didn’t shake my conviction that monogamy is not in any shape or form the only “normal” type of intimate relationship people can share. I have to admit that I’m not sure whether today I would be able to handle any better what five years ago I wasn’t able to due to lack of experience or perhaps maturity, but I know that reading The Ethical Slut gave me perspective, confidence and knowledge that polyamory can work, even if it goes against most of the principles I/we take for granted and cannot identify their origin.
Now, about the book. I felt it tended to repeat itself in some ways and placed too much emphasis on (unconventional) sex, which in my world is glorified a bit too much. At times the writers came across as too condescending (“sorry my life is so simple, geez!”). But in the end I got something from it: I was inspired by the different success stories and will come back to it for ideas, suggestions and tips if/when I end up in a polyamoric relationship.
Another addition to my Daphne-induced comic experiences, one more tasty slice of life from her rich suggestion list. I liked the art, enjoyed the story but I don’t feel as if it left me with something valuable. Koko was annoying and I wasn’t interested in what she was doing at all, apart from giving me some ideas for being more spontaneous myself; I sympathised much more with Jon and the decisions he had to make in life, i.e, whether he would follow what he thought would be a step forward (going with his long-distance girlfriend to Peru for humanitarian work) or do what he had convinced himself was beneath him but deep down (?) would rather be doing.
Enjoyable, quick summer read that took me places; nothing too earthshaking – thank goodness not everything is earthshaking.
I read the other reviews on Goodreads before setting out to write this (as I always do for good or ill) and it seems that we only got 2/3 of what Clover was originally meant to be. Maybe that’s why it’s nonsensical. The “written word” part of it is just that: incoherent. The lyrics from that song, in 110% cliché anime style (i.e generic song that has the words love, happiness, forever, together, alone, tears and heart mixed, sautéed in soy sauce and served on the spot) repeated ad nauseam was quite annoying and the plot in general didn’t exist at all. Yes, I’ve concluded that it can’t be my fault that almost all anime/manga plots fly right over my head. This one in particular… wow. It was so irrelevant or so it seemed, that I think it would have been better if I had “read” it in Japanese (or whatever other verb you can use to describe at least trying to read something that’s in a foreign language and you by default only pay attention to the shapes of the letters/characters/kana).
The reason I’m stressing this of course is that this tome is just beautiful and I can imagine the aesthetics take a hit when the kana and kanji are forced to be replaced by latin characters. The steampunk/clockwork angel & sparrow thing worked well and was pretty to look at on the experimentally laid out pages that flow in lightning speeds. While I enjoyed the visual feast, I must confess that this style in the end is just not for me.
Even like that, I ended up liking it and it’s probably because some parts reminded me very strongly of my girlfriend who’s the one who came to my house one day and out of the blue just left Clover on my desk. If it wasn’t for her, I would have probably never touched it. But, sentimental a critic as I am, my feelings governed these keystrokes. I feel strangely complete writing this.
Μου αρέσουν γενικά οι οπτικοποιημένες διασκευές, όπως για παράδειγμα τα έργα του Αριστοφάνη ή η ιστορία του κόσμου ή της μουσικής σε κόμικ. Το Κεφάλαιο του Μαρξ δεν αποτελέσε εξαίρεση και το ήταν μάλιστα μάνγκα -όχι ό,τι κι ό,τι κόμικ- ήταν επίσης ευπρόσδεκτο.
Οι χαρακτήρες απλοί και συμβολικοί για να περάσουν το μήνυμα ευκολότερα, οι παραλληλισμοί με το σήμερα και ο διαχρονικός παραλογισμός του καπιταλισμού προφανείς. Όλα και τίποτα δεν έχουν αλλάξει από τον 19ο αιώνα — σχεδόν το βιβλίο με έκανε, για λίγα κλάσματα του δευτερολέπτου, να συμμεριστώ τους κνίτες και την εμμονή τους με τον Γερμανό μουσάτο τύπο του τότε, από τους πολλούς δηλαδή. Ευτυχώς συνήλθα γρήγορα.
Το μοναδικό πρόβλημα (ίσως κι επειδή είμαι χαζός σε αυτά τα θέματα) είναι πως όταν άρχιζε να εξηγεί από τι προκύπτει η υπεραξία και γιατί η τεχνολογική εξέλιξη η οποία αντικαθιστά τους εργάτες αναπόφευκτα οδηγεί σε κρίση γιατί το κέρδος μειώνεται, απλά δεν καταλάβαινα. Και συνεχίζω να μην καταλαβαίνω. Το ποσοστό κέρδους μπορεί να μειώνεται γιατί υπάρχει μεγαλύτερο αρχικό κεφάλαιο για την αγορά μηχανημάτων/εξοπλισμού, όμως δεν προβλέπεται η απόσβεση; Αγοράζοντας τα μηχανήματα δεν αγοράζεις, κατα κάποιον τρόπο, το εργατικό τους δυναμικό; Γιατί αράγε η αντικατάσταση εργατών με μηχανήματα είναι ζημιογόνα, ή μάλλον, αντι-κερδοσκοπική για τον καπιταλιστή σε βάθος χρόνου; Αυτές τις λεπτομέρειες δεν τις πιάνω και το μάνγκα δεν με βοήθησε και πολύ. Ίσως, όπως και το πραγματικό κείμενο, να χρειάζεται επιπλέον μελέτη και όχι απλά μια γρήγορη ανάγνωση γιατί νομίζες ότι επειδή διαβάζεις διασκευή σε μάνγκα θα έπρεπε να τα πιάνεις ευκολότερα. Σε αυτή την περίπτωση, ίσως το ότι είναι μάνγκα να μην βοηθάει τα πράγματα. Χμ.
Es gibt ein großes und doch ganz alltägliches Geheimnis. Alle Menschen haben daran teil, jeder kennt es, aber die wenigsten denken je darüber nach. Die meisten Leute nehmen es einfach so hin und wundern sich kein bisschen darüber. Dieses Geheimnis ist die Zeit. Es gibt Kalender und Uhren, um sie zu messen, aber das will wenig besagen, denn jeder weiß, dass einem eine einzige Stunde wie eine Ewigkeit vorkommen kann, mitunter kann sie aber auch wie ein Augenblick vergehen – je nachdem, was man in dieser Stunde erlebt. Denn Zeit ist Leben. Und Leben wohnt im Herzen.
Diese Worte kann einfach “Momo” beschreiben, als das einzigartige Buch es wirklich ist. Momo ist das Kind wir allen gern bekommen würden , die Person auch ich als Erwachsene werden möchte.
Momo war mein erstes wirkliches Buch, das ich auf unvereinfachtem Deutsch gelesen habe. Obwohl ich das 100% des Texts nicht verstehen kannte, sondern etwa das 60%, ich fühle, dass ich genug verstanden habe, um die Schönheit des Wesentliches gut begreifen zu können. Es ist einfach eins von diesen Büchern, die gut wenn man ein Kind ist sind aber in mancher Beziehung sind sie besser wenn sie von Erwachsenen gelesen werden sind. Andere solche Bücher sind, meiner Meinung nach, His Dark Materials, Werke von Jostein Gaarder und Evgenios Trivizas, zu ein Paar Beispiele erwähnen.
Michael Ende ist einer diesen Menschen, die den Sinn gefunden haben. Deshalb bin ich sicher, dass wenn mein Deutsch besser wird, wird mir auch Momo noch besser gefallen. Bis dann wünsche ich mir, dass ich setze fort, die Zeit-Dieber zu vermeiden und widerstehen. Also, kein Zeit sparen! Las uns alles geniessen, auch die Arbeit und die schwierigen Tagen. Und warum? Lesen Sie einfach das Schnipsel droben und sicher werden sie, genau wie Momo und die Schildkröte Kassiopeia, auch verstehen!
A few light years away from Terra, there is a dual system of a planet and a moon, similar to the one back home. The planet, Urras, is a beautiful planet, rich with natural splendour, floral and faunal variety and the kind of society you’d find on Terra: full of social inequalities and a global culture founded on ownership, reflecting almost nothing of its beauty on the lives of the population.
The moon of that planet is Anarres. It has an atmosphere that paints the sky violet but is little more than a large desert with not too much water and only a few species of plants and animals – the most advanced species apart from humans living there are fish. Humans from Urras have settled Anarres 150 years now, in the space-age equivalent of ’30s Catalonia, after a massive social movement in Urras following an important religious/revolutionary figure by the name of Odo forced the Urrasti to make concessions and agree with the revolutionaries to let them put themselves into exile on the moon, founding an anarchist society in the process.
Since then, the Odonians have led quiet, balanced, happy lives on Anarres. Odo’s theories/preachings supported that people are like cells of a single organism, together with the rest of life forming a greater consciousness, and should act the part, leaving ownership and “egoising” behind and focusing on the welfare of the community. Every man’s or woman’s duty in this society is to do the thing they can do and enjoy doing best, similar to a specialised organic cell, so that they should be productive as well as happy and fulfilled in the process: that was her secret of a balanced and healthy society, in tune with its environment and living space. As a sidenote, I’d like to point out here that the same ideology is represented in 1984: that IngSoc is an organism that consists of tiny cells which are the members of the party. It asks a completey different quesion based on that assumption though: “do you die every time you clip your fingernails, Winston?” It uses this train of thought to argue for the survival of the organism even when its individual members have to be eliminated in order to ensure survival of the greater consciousness; quite the opposite of what Odo says, which is that the welfare of the organism depends on individual welfare as well as the co-operation and solidarity between its cells. In both sides of the argument, egoism is repressed, but for completely different reasons.
To return to Odonianism: to allow themselves to have such a lifestyle, people would have to get rid of such distractions as wasteful culture including ownership, money and egoistical behaviour. The experiment worked and the results we catch a glimpse of in The Dispossessed.
People on Anarres share everything, even their homes and their sexual partners — keeping a partner for yourself is regarded as egoistical and equivalent to having them as your property; it is thus disencouraged (as are all possessive pronouns, even when it comes to family relationships) unless it’s for rearing a child. People are free to lead the lives they please as long as they don’t get in the way of their ammars, that is to say their brothers, doing the same.
The protagonist is a guy named Shevek, a name given to him by a computer as is the tradition in Anarres, which ensures the uniqueness of every individual and the uselessness of last names, in turn weakening family ties in favour of a more collective familial sentiment. The reader follows Shevek throughout his life and the problems he has growing up in this society when he is not as sociable as others. You see, he is a scientist, a theoretical physicist with great potential. But what happens when his society, good, balanced and just as it may be, doesn’t allow him to be the best he can be? For games of power exist in Anarres as well, and the person in charge of him in the institute knows the ropes very well; the difference is that the payoff is influence and fame, not money. What should he do: try leaving Anarres for Urras to make his ideas known and accepted there, making the world better in the process, or stay in his society following the norms that forbid most kinds of communication with the outer world?
The answer is given in the first chapter of the book, whence we follow Shevek in his stay in Urras. The book is chronologically mixed up (fittingly, in my opinion, as Shevek’s main goal in his field is to make a unified theory of simulaneous time) and alternately follows Shevek’s backstory in Anarres and his present life in Urras. Both settings were equally satisfying: looking at a foreign anarchist who’s never known anything else coming in contact with “profiteer” (a horrible insult in Pravic) society, is just as interesting as looking at how people have managed to build a fully working bona fide anarchist society in Anarres and the details of their day-to-day existence on the arid planet.
I have divulged this much of the book’s plot for it is not therein that its charm is hidden. I don’t think I’m blurting out spoilers here. There is little mystery or what we’d recognise as development in the story. The feeling it gave me was much less of a thrilling narrative and much more of a beautiful journey in a foreign land. All the other characters apart from Shevek, even perhaps Shevek himself, were there only to guide us through this utopia. The little things the traveller discovers are what make The Dispossessed a zen-like, heart-warming experience: Shevek’s first encounters with animals; his discussion with a Terran embassador; labour allocation in Anarres; the contrast between the placentas being kept after birth in Anarres as part of their zero-waste culture and the huge shopping malls in Urras, which could make any Anarresti physically ill; sex in Urras and how Shevek finds it so foreign and pretentious, and so on.
Furthermore, and I think this is very important, we get a look at the disadvantages of living in an anarchist society as Shevek experiences them; the necessity of sacrificing certain ambitions in favour of the common good, the morality of the question itself, the tendency of people, no matter what political inclination they have and culture they belong to, to grow conservative over time and forget their very own beliefs, growing rigid and rule-abiding rather than flexible and people-friendly, utilitarian rathen than deontological…
“She [Le Guin] invites, as Tolkien does, a total belief”, reads a snippet of a critic on the back-cover of my copy. If a sci-fi novel can make me believe in the existence of a real anarchist society somewhere in the galaxy and by extension in the real possibility of an anarchist society much closer to home, I can’t but heartliy agree with the above snippet.