Light relief

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Quite clearly, this image reveals that I have mastered the art of levitating in an upright position above an arbitrary, somewhat smudged mandala. Nonsense. It is another of those examples of l’art abstrait faux to which I made reference yesterday. The difference is that my legs, insured for the grand sum of zero, are the chief work of art on display here. Contrary to what the photograph suggests, my legs are not bent at all. I am lying down with my legs extended straight up at a 90º angle, knees locked, and all requisite muscles flexed. Beyond my feet is the rather pretty decorated glass light fitting suspended from the ceiling. This is what passes for exercise at the moment. It requires more discipline that might initially be supposed. I notice that this is the photographic début of my mules. That is quite odd, since I have had them for over two decades. They have been worn almost exclusively as translation footwear, and almost exclusively indoors. And the yellow leggings? There is no plausible explanation for those.

It is all a question of perspective. The 1930s in major European cities saw swirling movement in art, music, architecture, design and literature which have altered the course of human thinking in ways that cannot adequately be apprehended in this short blog, and certainly not while the writer has her feet up in the air.  The perspective I will offer you is this: Aldous Huxley published his novel Brave New World in 1932, three years before my deceased father was born. I read the Penguin Classic 1955 edition of this title, purchased second-hand along with many other of the author’s works, roughly fifty years after publication.

To my knowledge, philosophical visionary Aldous Huxley (who wrote an awfully convoluted essay positing what exactly “Absolute Truth” might be) was the first in modern fiction to introduce us to the concept of the efficient zombie, in the form of the Epsilons. Epsilons were on the lowest rung in the caste system described in the novel. In the Incubating Room, one ovum was divided repetitively to make “”ninety-six humans beings grow where only one grew before”.  All an Epsilon had to do was perform a function. There was no requirements to think, or even make a particularly good impression.  In other words, an Epsilon was like a zombie, except fully alive.

Fast-forward to real human beings born the old-fashioned way (aka Alphas, near as dammit), and the best we can hope for on a Monday is zombie-like efficiency.  This means that although the job will get done efficiently, there will be sacrifices. We normally have to contend with an absence of happiness and severe poetry deprivation. The dogged determination of the efficient zombie means that by the end of the day the zombie is no longer efficient, and any attempt to get a poetry fix might not compute.

As any habitual efficient zombie will confirm, poetry deprivation can and sometimes does lead to a lack of emotional intelligence, or a state best described as being emotionally destitute, or emotionally bereft. This state of being does not, thank Ford, make one an emotional coward, and just as well, since in the grand scheme of things, humankind cannot really cope with too many of that sort.  There aren’t any characters like that in Brave New World, but one or two popped up their ugly heads in the real world not too long ago, and some would say that one such example can currently be found narcissistically masquerading as leader of the New World, or a sizable chunk of it anyway.

By the way, sales of the novel first published in 1932 and mentioned here have experienced a recent upswing on that platform that reminds us of strong women and a jungle at one at the same time, but if you have nine and a half spare hours, you can instead listen to an excellent narration by actor Michael York for free on YouTube here. It is not poetry, but it might have you trying to memorise random lines of prose while gazing with zombie-like efficiency at a smudged, bluish mandala, or facsimile thereof.

©2017 Allison Wright

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