Ursula K. Le Guin accepts the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the 65th National Book Awards on November 19, 2014. “I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies, to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality… …Books, you know, they’re not just commodities. The profit motive often is in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words.” – speech excerpt Copyright © 2014 Ursula K. Le Guin
“You are our history. We are perhaps your future. I want to learn, not ignore. It is the reason I came. We must know each other. We are not primitive men. Our morality is no longer tribal, it cannot be. Such ignorance is a wrong, from which wrong will arise. So I come to learn.” – The Dispossessed, p. 75 Welcome to the final part in the series exploring one of my favourite novels: Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed. You can read the previous entries here: Part 1 – Crossing the Wall: The Dispossessed Part 2 – Urras and Hope Betrayed Part 3 – Anarres the Promise Kept In this last piece, I’ll touch on the theme of reconciliation that runs through the novel and look at one of its key recurring image: the wall. Finally, I’ll explore how the idea of the promise, as expressed by Le Guin’s ideas and embodied by the protagonist Shevek’s actions, has implications for my own personal journey in forging a meaningful and fulfilling life.
“We have nothing but our freedom. We have nothing to give you but your own freedom. We have no law but the single principle of mutual aid between individuals. We have no government but the single principle of free association. We have no states, no nations, no presidents, no premiers, no chiefs, no generals, no bosses, no bankers, no landlords, no wages, no charity, no police, no soldiers, no wars. Nor do we have much else. We are sharers, not owners. We are not prosperous. None of us is rich. None of us is powerful. If it is Anarres you want, if it is the future you seek, then I tell you that you must come to it with empty hands.” -The Dispossessed, pp.300-301 Welcome to my continuing series exploring Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia. You can check out my history with the novel and part 2 of the analysis. This piece details the protagonist Shevek growing up in the anarchic world of Anarres, the nature of his unique society, and the journey …
“Shevek, a brilliant physicist, decides to take action. He will seek answers, question the unquestionable, and attempt to tear down the walls of hatred that have isolated his planets of anarchists from the rest of the civilized universe… Shevek must make the unprecedented journey to the utopian mother planet, Urras, to challenge the complex structures of life and living, and ignite the fires of change.” – Eos edition paperback cover Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed alternates between two narratives across time and space. One revolves around the protagonist Shevek in the present as he travels to and learns about the world of Urras; the following piece looks at this story. The second narrative tells the story of Shevek’s past and his life growing up on the world of Anarres, an anarchic and egalitarian society – I’ll explore that in the next post. Finally, I’ll be examining the whole story in a third and final piece through one of the novel’s central theme: Reconciliation.
“No philosophy can compare in intensity and richness of meaning with a properly narrated story… storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it… it brings about consent and reconciliation with things as they really are…” – Hannah Arendt, political philosopher
I don’t usually like New Year’s resolutions, but I couldn’t help but be inspired by the list over at Philosophy for Change (a blog everyone should check out). Number two on that list most resonated with me, because it speaks of a theme I’ve found myself returning to again and again on Ekostories. It’s a subject I’ve been grappling with over the past year: The power of love to affect change.
Have you ever read something where the author articulated precisely the ideas that you’ve been trying to work out in your own mind for ages? Have you ever felt that flash of recognition, that chill of goosebumps, and obeyed that urge to nod along and shout “yes!” out loud? And once the giddiness subsides, have you ever felt that sinking realization that someone managed to conveyed those ideas better than you ever could have? I recently had that experience with a piece from Orion Magazine. “Out of the Wild” features a conversation between authors Michael Pollan and William Cronon as they chat about many of the ideas I’ve been grappling with on Ekostories: Concepts of nature and culture, the power of stories for change, the importance of personal sustainability. Regular readers will know that I’ve written a few essays on Pollan’s work, namely on Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education and The Botany of Desire, so it should come as no surprise that I enjoyed his contributions to this piece. But in my opinion it was Cronon, an environmental …