from two very different books by two very different authors. First from a man whose books contain more truths couched in (seeming) absurdities seems n any other – Kurt Vonnegut. This is from God Bless You Mr. Rosewater:
Samirotrophia – hysterical indifference to the condition of those less fortunate than oneself
May be invented, yet another addition to the lexicon by Mr. Vonnegut, doesn’t matter. This book was published in 1965,a slightly more hopeful time when, regardless of his faults, Lyndon Johnson was at least attempting to create the Great Society. As Kurt might well say, “Oh boy.” The only misfortunes Americans get up in arms about today are those which occur after disasters, natural or otherwise. This phenomenon lasts for a few days or weeks and the intensity of it is proportional to the distance from the US. Or to the skin color, or culture, of those who experience it. I could go on about how Samaritophria seems to be more prevalent in Republicans, and generally among those who are, in fact, MORE fortunate, but I won’t. I’ll just say that Bill Gates, whom I formerly despised, is the exception who proves the rule.
The second philosophy, or maybe more an observation, is from Neal Stephenson. In
- The Diamond Age
, the heroine, Nell, is talking with Constable Moore about intelligence. She observes, “The Vickys (neoVictorians in the world of the novel) have an elaborate code of morals and conduct. It grew out of the moral squalor of an earlier generation, just as the original Victorians were preceded by the Georgians and the Regency. The old guard believe in that code because they came to it the hard way. They raise their children to believe in that code – but their children believe in it for entirely different reasons.” The Constable responds, “They believe it because they have been indoctrinated to believe it.”
Nell goes on, “Yes. Some of them never challenge it – they grow up to be small – minded people, who can tell you what they believe but not why they believe it. Others become disillusioned by the society and rebel.. .
The Constable asks,”Which path do you intend to take Nell – conformity or rebellion?”
Nell responds, “Neither one. Both ways are simple-minded – they are only for people who cannot cope with contradiction and ambiguity.”
Read this while I was in bed last night. Couldn’t get to sleep right away for the thoughts rattling around in my noggin, some of which I have summarized here. Just about all my life I have struggled with paying obeisance to either conformity or rebellion. Sometimes both at the same time, which proves Stephenson’s point I guess. Finding one’s OWN path, charting one’s OWN course, one which can be guided by outside influences, is the only way through life with which I can maintain both integrity and a modicum of sanity.