KING O' THE WEB!

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Friday, January 25, 2008

God as Hobson's Choice

tWO pASSAGES FROM aLDOUS hUXLEY'S cROME yELLOW

Selection One

Priscilla's gay and gadding existence had come to an abrupt end.
Nowadays she spent almost all her time at Crome, cultivating a
rather ill-defined malady. For consolation she dallied with New
Thought and the Occult. Her passion for racing still possessed
her, and Henry, who was a kind-hearted fellow at bottom, allowed
her forty pounds a month betting money. Most of Priscilla's days
were spent in casting the horoscopes of horses, and she invested
her money scientifically, as the stars dictated. She betted on
football too, and had a large notebook in which she registered
the horoscopes of all the players in all the teams of the League.
The process of balancing the horoscopes of two elevens one
against the other was a very delicate and difficult one. A match
between the Spurs and the Villa entailed a conflict in the
heavens so vast and so complicated that it was not to be wondered
at if she sometimes made a mistake about the outcome.

"Such a pity you don't believe in these things, Denis, such a
pity," said Mrs. Wimbush in her deep, distinct voice.

"I can't say I feel it so."

"Ah, that's because you don't know what it's like to have faith.
You've no idea how amusing and exciting life becomes when you do
believe. All that happens means something; nothing you do is
ever insignificant. It makes life so jolly, you know. Here am I
at Crome. Dull as ditchwater, you'd think; but no, I don't find
it so. I don't regret the Old Days a bit. I have the Stars..."
She picked up the sheet of paper that was lying on the blotting-
pad. "Inman's horoscope," she explained. "(I thought I'd like
to have a little fling on the billiards championship this
autumn.) I have the Infinite to keep in tune with," she waved
her hand. "And then there's the next world and all the spirits,
and one's Aura, and Mrs. Eddy and saying you're not ill, and the
Christian Mysteries and Mrs. Besant. It's all splendid. One's
never dull for a moment. I can't think how I used to get on
before--in the Old Days. Pleasure--running about, that's all it
was; just running about. Lunch, tea, dinner, theatre, supper
every day. It was fun, of course, while it lasted. But there
wasn't much left of it afterwards....."

Selection Two:

One entered the world, Denis pursued, having ready-made ideas
about everything. One had a philosophy and tried to make life
fit into it. One should have lived first and then made one's
philosophy to fit life...Life, facts, things were horribly
complicated; ideas, even the most difficult of them, deceptively
simple. In the world of ideas everything was clear; in life all
was obscure, embroiled. Was it surprising that one was
miserable, horribly unhappy? Denis came to a halt in front of
the bench, and as he asked this last question he stretched out
his arms and stood for an instant in an attitude of crucifixion,
then let them fall again to his sides.

"My poor Denis!" Anne was touched. He was really too pathetic
as he stood there in front of her in his white flannel trousers.
"But does one suffer about these things? It seems very
extraordinary."

"You're like Scogan," cried Denis bitterly. "You regard me as a
specimen for an anthropologist. Well, I suppose I am."

"No, no," she protested, and drew in her skirt with a gesture
that indicated that he was to sit down beside her. He sat down.
"Why can't you just take things for granted and as they come?"
she asked. "It's so much simpler."

"Of course it is," said Denis. "But it's a lesson to be learnt
gradually. There are the twenty tons of ratiocination to be got
rid of first."

"I've always taken things as they come," said Anne. "It seems so
obvious. One enjoys the pleasant things, avoids the nasty ones.
There's nothing more to be said."

"Nothing--for you. But, then, you were born a pagan; I am trying
laboriously to make myself one. I can take nothing for granted,
I can enjoy nothing as it comes along. Beauty, pleasure, art,
women--I have to invent an excuse, a justification for everything
that's delightful. Otherwise I can't enjoy it with an easy
conscience. I make up a little story about beauty and pretend
that it has something to do with truth and goodness. I have to
say that art is the process by which one reconstructs the divine
reality out of chaos. Pleasure is one of the mystical roads to
union with the infinite--the ecstasies of drinking, dancing,
love-making. As for women, I am perpetually assuring myself that
they're the broad highway to divinity. And to think that I'm
only just beginning to see through the silliness of the whole
thing! It's incredible to me that anyone should have escaped
these horrors."

"It's still more incredible to me," said Anne, "that anyone
should have been a victim to them. I should like to see myself
believing that men are the highway to divinity." The amused
malice of her smile planted two little folds on either side of
her mouth, and through their half-closed lids her eyes shone with
laughter. "What you need, Denis, is a nice plump young wife, a
fixed income, and a little congenial but regular work."

"What I need is you." That was what he ought to have retorted,
that was what he wanted passionately to say. He could not say
it. His desire fought against his shyness. "What I need is
you." Mentally he shouted the words, but not a sound issued from
his lips. He looked at her despairingly. Couldn't she see what
was going on inside him? Couldn't she understand? "What I need
is you." He would say it, he would--he would.

"I think I shall go and bathe," said Anne. "It's so hot." The
opportunity had passed.


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