Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Left Hand of Darkness: Round One

So after reading the first section of this book I was, needless to say, REALLY confused. There were times where I just powered through the text and just read, and eventually I somewhat understood what was going on... Hopefully. I am one of those people who hats highlighting and writing in books (because I feel like they look like this picture) , however, there were a few times when I was reading this book when I was like "holy banana's this is really smart!" So, that being said, I was going to talk about them...

On page 70 Genly is talking to the Foretellers about foretelling and they say:
"The unknown... the unforetold, the unproven, that is what life is based on. Ignorance is the ground of thought. Unproof is the ground of action. If it were proven that there is no God there would be no religion... But also if it were proven that there is a God, there would be no religion...Tell me, Genry, what is known? What is sure, predictable, inevitable--the one certain thing you know concerning your future, and mine?"
"That we shall die."
"Yes. There's really only one question that can be answered, Genry, and we already know the answer... The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next."
When I was done reading that I was like WOW. There are so many aspects of this passage that are true. Whether you are religious or not, you believe in something. Whether it be love, a god, hope, whatever. But what if there was no reason to have faith in ANYTHING? What if we were given the answers to everything? We knew the day that we were going to die, the day we were going to get married and who we were getting married to. We knew how many children we would have, we knew what they would be like, etc. How would our life be different without the mystery of what is coming next?

I related this more to faith, because I am religious. (I am really going to attempt not to preach at you but attempt rather to relate it to faith) I think about the faith that people put in God. They believe that he exists, they believe that he can perform miracles, they believe that he came down to Earth and walked among people (depending on your religion of course). People have that much faith in something that they can not physically see. How would they feel if they knew definitively that God existed or not? 

In some ways I think that part of the appeal of religion is the mystery. People can say that they know for sure God is up there, but do they really? There is always that mystery of having spent an entire lifetime devoted to somethign that isn't there. And that is faith. What would our lives be without faith? If we did not have faith that someday we would find the person that we would love and would love us in return, how different would our lives be?

I remember back to when I was a child and I used to play with my friends and we would all sit around and talk about what it would be like to be married one day. If we knew that we were for sure getting married, and who we were getting married to, there would be no mystery in life. There would be no hardships on one hand, but there would also be no excitement. Life would be a series of events and actions that we went through just to get the the next thing. One of the reasons that I think the Foretellers are so vague in this book is because they was life to have mystery. They do not want life to be "ruined".

And on the Mystery note... I must share this =)


  1. Well it might also be that because the only constant in life is uncertainty that the presumed certainty religions have to offer are often so appealing. Uncertainty is stressful, scary, and gives us nightmares about crazy mutant tom cruise coming into our rooms at night to pour gravy in our ear for no apparent reason. In fact, what was the reason I even conjured up that image? I don't know, and that scares me. If religions offer certainty, it has to be admitted that would cross anyone as far less scary at face value then graving pouring mutant tom cruises.

  2. Going alongside the talk of religion and certainty, though some people do not doubt their beliefs, they also do not have undeniable proof. To me, this is what makes the belief so strong. Two plus three is five and I believe this because it’s a fact. I believe God exists because I have faith in his existence. Believing is so much harder when you do not have solid proof, but that’s what gives it so much power. The story, feeds off of beliefs. Even our main character Ai relies on the power of beliefs, not the solidity of facts. Being from another planet, Genly is struggling with not only language barriers and the cold, but a group of people who do not know of his homeland. If we met a person on the street much like ourselves who spoke of other universes and peoples, and rocket ships faster than light what would you think? Yes he has photos and detailed stories, but there is no certainty in what Ai says. Not one Gethenian can know for sure if Ai speaks truth or bull crap. In order to complete his mission, Genly has to make people understand where he’s from and believe it exists. This is a hard task when you cannot just take someone to this planet, much like God can be tough to put faith in when a visit to Heaven is not possible for proof. Estraven’s dedication to Genly’s mission is a huge deal, much more meaningful than Envoy main character seems to appreciate. Estraven is putting himself out on a limb by giving trust in the belief of other universes with other peoples. The book rides on belief so much that people die because of this. Some cannot handle the mystery and live in fear of the day they will die or the potential for alien invasion. Others encourage the mystery like Estraven who welcomes the unsure and unknown, and the foretellers who know mystery creates a power so precious that is worth preserving sometimes. That power gained from mystery is what drives the characters of this novel, and the book itself.

  3. If the only known thing is death, is embracing mystery what makes life fully lived? This seems to go against our Western desires to know all, to be certain of all.

    It also seems to speak to what Derrida is advocating in deconstruction.