The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia is a 1974 utopianscience fiction novel by American writer Ursula K. Le Guin, set in the same fictional universe as that of The Left Hand of Darkness (the Hainish Cycle). The book won the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1974, won both the Hugo and Locus Awards in 1975, and received a nomination for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award in 1975.It achieved a degree of literary recognition unusual for science fiction works due to its exploration of many themes, including anarchism and revolutionary societies, capitalism and individualism and collectivism.
It features the development of the mathematical theory underlying the fictional ansible, an instantaneous communications device that plays a critical role in Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle. The invention of the ansible places the novel first in the internal chronology of the Hainish Cycle, although it was the fifth Hainish novel published
In her new introduction to the Library of America reprint in 2017, the author wrote:
The Dispossessed started as a very bad short story, which I didn’t try to finish but couldn’t quite let go. There was a book in it, and I knew it, but the book had to wait for me to learn what I was writing about and how to write about it. I needed to understand my own passionate opposition to the war that we were, endlessly it seemed, waging in Vietnam, and endlessly protesting at home. If I had known then that my country would continue making aggressive wars for the rest of my life, I might have had less energy for protesting that one. But, knowing only that I didn’t want to study war no more, I studied peace. I started by reading a whole mess of utopias and learning something about pacifism and Gandhi and nonviolent resistance. This led me to the nonviolent anarchist writers such as Peter Kropotkin and Paul Goodman. With them I felt a great, immediate affinity. They made sense to me in the way Lao Tzu did. They enabled me to think about war, peace, politics, how we govern one another and ourselves, the value of failure, and the strength of what is weak.
So, when I realised that nobody had yet written an anarchist utopia, I finally began to see what my book might be. And I found that its principal character, whom I’d first glimpsed in the original misbegotten story, was alive and well—my guide to Anarres.
The chapters alternate between the worlds and in time. The even-numbered chapters, which are set on Anarres, take place first chronologically and are followed by the odd-numbered chapters, which take place on Urras. The only exceptions occurs in the first and last chapters, which take place in both worlds.
chapters in chron order: 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13
Anarres (chapters 1,2,4,6,8,10,12,13)
Urras (chapters 1,3,5,7,9,11,13)
He later notes that he let a “wall be built around him” that kept him from seeing the poor people on Urras. He had been co-opted, with walls of smiles of the rich, and he didn’t know how to break them down. Shevek at one point speculates that the people on Urras are not truly free, precisely because they have so many walls built between people and are so possessive. He says, “You are all in jail. Each alone, solitary, with a heap of what he owns. You live in prison, die in prison. It is all I can see in your eyes – the wall, the wall!” ‘It is not just the state of mind of those inside the prisons that concerns Shevek, he also notes the effect on those outside the walls. Steve Grossi says, ‘by building a physical wall to keep the bad in, we construct a mental wall keeping ourselves, our thoughts, and our empathy out, to the collective detriment of all.” Shevek himself later says, “those who build walls are their own prisoners.”Le Guin makes this explicit in chapter two, when the schoolchildren construct their own prison and detain one of their own inside. The deleterious effect on the children outside parallels the effect on the guards in the Stanford Prison Experiment of 1971 (three years before The Dispossessed was published)
Great discussion of why right-libertarians have a problem with The Dispossessed https://t.co/1BiYTbrP14
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/KevinCarson1/status/957359784382124032
6 (ch 1)
he was clearly aware of only one thing, his own total isolation. the world had fallen out from under him, and he was left alone. he had always feared that this would happen, more than he had ever feared death.. to die is to lose the self and rejoin the rest. he had kept himself, and lost the rest..
31 (ch 2)
(on lesson to school children on prison) what if they didn’t want to do it? well, they were forced to do it; if they didn’t work, they were beaten. a thrill of tension went thru the children listening, 11-12 yr olds, none of whom had ever been struck or seen a person struck.. except in immediate personal anger..
tirin asked the question that was in all their minds: ‘you mean a lot of people would beat up one person:”.. yes.. why didn’t the others stop them? ‘the guards had weapons. the prisoners did not’ the teacher said. he spoke w the violence of one forced to say the detestable and embarrassed by it..
(then they pretend they have a prison.. and they want to try being prisoners.. one spent 30 hrs and came out a mess)
stanford prison experiment.. see above from wikipedia
(on sharing vs having) – but most women, their only relationship to a man is having. either owning or being owned.. you think they’re diff from men there..? i know it. what a man wants is freedom. what a woman wants is property she’ll only let you go if she can trade you for something else.. all women are propertarians
i think me mostly have to learn to be anarchists.. women don’t have to learn
it’s the kids he said.. having babies.. makes em propertarians.. they won’t let go..
touch and go brother that’ the rule. don’t ever let yourself be owned.. shevek: i won’t
you shall not go down twice to the same river.. nor can you go home again.. you can go home again the general temporal theory asserts.. so long as you understand that home is a place where you have never been
(at end of party for shevek’s departure) they talked.. about the spatial rep of time as rhythm and the connection of the ancient theories of the numerical harmonies w modern temporal physics.. they talked about the best stroke for long distance swimming.. they talked about whether their childhoods had been happy.. they talked about what happiness was…
suffering is a misunderstanding shevek said.. it exists.. it’s real.. i can call it a misunderstanding but i can’t pretend it doesn’t exist.. or will ever cease to exist.. suffering is the condition on which we live.. of course it’s right to cure diseases, to prevent hunger and injustice as the social organism does.. but no society can change the nature of existence.. we can’t prevent suffering.. this pain and that pain, yes, but not Pain.. a society can only relieve social suffering, unnecessary suffering. the rest remains.. the root the reality…all of us here are going to know grief…
any happiness seems trivial and yet i wonder if it isn’t all a misunderstanding.. this grasping after happiness.. this fear of pain.. if instead of fearing it and running from it .. one could .. get thru it.. go beyond it.. there is something beyond it.. it’s the self that suffers and there’s a place where the self.. ceases..
i don’t know how to say it.. but believe that the reality .. the truth that i recognize in suffering as i don’t in comfort and happiness.. that the reality of pain is not pain.. if you can get thru it.. if you can endure it all the way..
the reality of our life is in love, in solidarity.. said a tall soft eyed girl.. love is the true condition of human life..
bedap: no shevek’s right.. love’s just one of the ways thru, and it can go wrong and miss.. pain never misses..
another: you’re making a cult of pain
but the whole principle of mutual aid is designed to prevent suffering..
(shevek.. on being w a dying/burned man.. why did he have to wait two more hours to die).. i’m not trying to say what i think brotherhood really is. it begins .. it begins in shared pain..
other: then where does it end
shevek: i don’t know.. i don’t know yet
63 (ch 3)
shevek discovered for the first time in his life the convo of his equals..
just like anarresti.. they were simply busy getting things done. it puzzled him. he had assumed that if you removed a human being’s natural incentive to work.. his initiative.. his spontaneous creative energy.. and replaced it w external motivation and coercion, he would become a lazy and careless worker.. the lure and compulsion of profit was evidently a much more effective replacement of the natural initiative than he had been led to believe..
he was alone here because he came from a self exiled society. he had always been alone on his own world because he had exiled himself from his society. the settlers had taken one step away. he had taken two. he stood by himself, because he had taken the metaphysical risk.. and he had been fool enough to think that he might serve to bring together two worlds to which he did not belong..
87 (ch 4)
the principle of organic econ was too essential to the functioning of the society not to affect ethics and aesthetics profoundly ‘excess is excrement’ ode wrote in the analogy. ‘excrement retained in the body is a poison‘
(as he’s describing city as school ness): no doors were locked, few shut. there were no disguises and no ads..
it was customary to start convo w a stranger by offering your name as a kind of handle for him to take hold of. there were not any other handles to offer. there was no rank, no terms of rank no conventional respectful forms of address
it came only too naturally to him to work alone.. since he was very young he had known that in certain ways he was unlike anyone else he knew.. for a child the consciousness of such difference is very painful, since, having done nothing yet and being incapable of doing anything., he cannot justify it. the reliable and affectionate presence of adults who are also in their own way, different, is the only reassurance such a child can have; and shevek had not had it. his father had indeed been utterly reliable and affectionate.. but palat had not had this curse of difference he was like the others, like all the others to whom community came so easy. he loved shevek, but he could not show him what freedom is, the recognition of each person’s solitude which alone transcends it..
shevek was therefore used to an inward isolation, buffered by all the daily casual contacts and exchanges of communal life and by the companionship of a few friends.. here in abbenay he had no friends… he was too conscious at twenty, of the peculiarities of his mind and character to be outgoing;
the privacy of his room soon became dear to him. he savored his total independence. he let the room only for breakfast and dinner.. and a quick daily hike thru the city streets to appease his muscles.. which had always been used to exercise.. every tenth day.. called for rotational community labor.. but the people he worked w were strangers.. so that these days of manual work made no psychological interruption to his isolation,
his life grew even more hermitic… the meetings of such groups, the vehicles of both social action and sociability, were the framework of life in any small community, but here in the city they seemed much less important.. one was not necessary to them; there were always others ready to run things and doing it well enough.. except for 10th day.. his time was entirely his own..
however.. he never missed the one course he was attending.. gvarab’s lecture group on frequency and cycle… she was old enough that she often wandered and maundered.. she soon picked out the thin body w big ears as her one constant auditor.. she began to lecture for him.. the light, steady, intelligent eyes met hers, steadied her, woke her, she flashed to brilliance, regained the vision lost..she soared, and the other students in the room looked up confused or startled, even scared if they had the wits to be scared. gvarab saw a much larger universe than most people were capable of seeing and it made them blink. the light eyed boy watched her steadily.. in his face she saw her joy.. what she offered, what she had offered for a whole lifetime, what no one had ever shared w her, he took, he shared. he was her brother, across the gulf of 50 yrs, and her redemption
(more sounding like..city as school ie: dorms and resources.. ).. if didn’t like roommates, you could move to another dorm. everybody had the workshop, lab, studio, barn, or office he needed for his work; one could be as private or as public as one chose in the baths; sexual privacy was freely available and socially expected; and beyond that privacy was not functional.. it was excess, waste.. the econ of anarres would not support the building, maintenance, heating, lighting of individual houses and apts.. a person whose nature was genuinely unsociable had to get away from society and look after himself.. he was completely free to do so.. he could build himself a house wherever he liked (though if it spoiled a good view or a fertile bit of land he might find himself under heavy pressure from neighbors to move elsewhere) …. there were a good many solitaries and hermits on the fringes of the older anarresti communities, pretending that they are not members of a social species. but for those who accepted the privilege and obligation of human solidarity, privacy was a value only where it served a function..
shevek’s first reaction to being put in a private room, then, was half disapproval and half shame.. he soon found out why. it was the right kind of place for his kind of work. if ideas arrive at midnight, he could turn on the light and write them down; if they came at dawn, they weren’t jostled out of his head by the convo and commotion of four or five roommates getting up; if they didn’t come at all and he had to spend whole days sitting at his desk staring out the window, there was nobody behind his back to wonder why he was slacking. privacy, in fact, was almost as desirable for physics as it was for sex.. but all the same, was it necessary?
many of his problems were of a kind other people did not understand that he had got used to working them out for himself, in silence.. he asked no one’s opinion.. he stopped taking dessert at the refectory. he did not, however, move to a dorm.. he weighed the moral discomfort against the practical advantage, and found the latter heavier.. he worked better in the private room. the job was worth doing and he was doing it well. it was centrally functional to his society. the responsibility justified the privilege..
so he worked..
he lost weight,; he walked light on the earth. lack of physical labor, lack of variety of occupation lack of social and sexual intercourse, none of these appeared to him as lacks, but as freedom. he was the free man: he could do what he wanted to do when he wanted to do it for as long as he wanted to do it. and he did. he worked. he work/played..
got more and more out of habit of sleeping.. a couple hours at night.. a couple more sometime during the day were enough for him.. such naps were not the kind of profound sleep he had always had before, but almost a waking on another level, there were so full of dreams. he dreamed vividly and the dreams were part of his work.. he got up and scribbled down, w/o really waking.. the mathematical formula that had been eluding him for days.. .. he saw space shrink in upon him like the walls of a collapsing sphere.. and he woke w a scream for help locked in his throat, struggling in silence to escape from the knowledge of his own eternal emptiness…
113 (ch 5)
their society maintained them in complete freedom from want, distraction and cares
what they were free to do, however, was another question. it appeared to shevek that their freedom from obligation was in exact proportion to their lack of freedom of initiative..t
was appalled by exam system..could not imagine a greater deterrent to the natural wish to learn that this pattern of cramming in info and disgorging it at demand.. he first refused to give any tests or grades.. but upset the uni admin so badly.. so he asked students to write paper on any problem in physics that interested them and told them he would give the all the highest mark.. to his surprise.. good many students came to him to complain.. they wanted him to set the problems.. and all getting same mark.. what would distinguish diligent students from dull ones.. if no competitive distinction .. one might as well do nothing… ‘well of course’ shevek said .. ‘if you do not want to do the work, you should not do it
they told shevek w pride that the competition for scholarship to leu eun was stiffer every year, proving the essential democracy of the institution. he said ‘you put another lock on the door and call it democracy‘
he could not force himself to understand how banks functioned and so forth.. because all the operations of capitalism were as meaningless to him as the rites of primitive religion, as barbaric, as elaborate, and as unnecessary..
sick of work that got nowhere.. he did not work hard.. he slept more than usual, walked, read, and told himself that the trouble was he had simply been in too much of a hurry; you couldn’t get hold of a whole new world in a few months..
he still did not eat meat; he had tried it, out of politeness and to prove to himself that he had no irrational prejudices, but his stomach had its reason s which reason does not know, and rebelled..
i want my people to come out of exile.. i came here because i don’t think you want that in thu.. you are afraid of us there.. you fear we might bring back the revolution.. the revoltuion for justice which you began and then sopped halfway.. here in a-io they fear me less because they have forgotten the revoltuion.. they don’t believe in it any more..they think if people can possess enough things they will be content to live in prison.. but i will not believe that. i want the walls down.. i want solidarity, human solidarity. i want free exchange…
to make a thief, make an owner; to create crime create laws – the social organism..t
too much ness
atro to shevek: there’s a great deal that’s admirable, i’m sure, in your society, but it doesn’t teach you to discriminate – which is after all the best thing civilization teaches.. i don’t want those damned aliens getting at you thru your notions about brotherhood and mutualism and all that.. they’ll spout you whole rivers of ‘common humanity’ and ‘leagues of all the worlds’ and so on, and i’d hate to see you swallow it.. the law of existence is struggle ..competition.. elimination of the weak… a ruthless war for survival.. and i want to see the best survive.. the kind of humanity i know.. the ceitans.. you and i: urras and anarres.. we’re ahead of them now.. all those hainish and terrans and whatever else they call themselves.. and we’ve got to stay ahead of them..
(on oiie’s son telling shevek he was rude for not saying thank you).. i thought you were sharing them w me.. were they a gift? we say thank you only for gifts in my country.. we share other things w/o talking about it ,.. you see.. would you like the pickles back again..?
(on shevek’s description of school.. as apprenticeship ness.. and by his admission that nobody was ever punished for anything).. but what.. oiie said abruptly.. what keeps people in order.. why don’t they rob and murder each other?
nobody owns anything to rob.. if you want thing you take them from the depository .. as for violence.. well.. i don’t know.. oiie; would you murder me ordinarily? and if you felt like it.. would a law against it stop you? coercion is the least efficient means of obtaining order.. t
dang.. you go ursula..
all right, but how do you get people to do the dirty work?
what dirty work” asked oiie’s wife.. not following..
garbage collecting, grave digging.. oiie said.. shevek added, ‘mercury mining.. and nearly said, ‘shit processing’ but recollected the ioti taboo on scatological words. he had reflected, quite early in his stay on urras, that the urarasti lived among mountains of excrement, but never mentioned shit..
well.. we all do them.. but nobody has to do them for very long.. unless he likes the work.. .. they make rotating lists..
but then the whole personnel must consist of people just learning the job
yes.. it’s not efficient ,.. but what else is to be done..? you can’t tell a man to work on a job that will cripple him or kill him in a few years..? .. why should he do that”
he can refuse the order”
it’s not an order oiie.. he goes to divlab – the division of labor office – and says,.. i want to do such and such what have you got.. and they tell him where there are jobs..
but then why do people do the dirty work at all? why do the even accept the one day in ten jobs..?
because they are done together.. and other reasons.. you know.. life on anarres isn’t rich as it is here. in the little communities there isn’t very much entertainment, and there is a lot of work to be done.. so.. if you work at a mechanical loom mostly .. every tenth day its pleasan to go outside and lay a pipe or plow a field w a diff group of people.. and then there is challenge.. here you think the incentive to work is finances.. need for money or desire for profit, but where there’s no money the real motives are clearer.. maybe.. people like to do things.. they like to do them well.. t.. people take the dangerous hard jobs because they take pride in doing them.. a person likes to do what he is good at doing.. but really, it is the question of ends and means.. after all, work is done for the work’s sake.. it is the lasting pleasure of life.. the private conscience knows that.. and also ths social conscience, the opinion of one’s neighbors.. there is no other reward, on anarres, no other law.. one’s own pleasure and the respect of one’s fellows.. that is all.. when that is so, then you see the opinion of the neighbors becomes a very might y force…
no on ever defies it?
perhaps not often enough..
does everybody work so hard then..? what happens to a man who just won’t cooperate
well. he moves on. the others get tire of him.. you know.. they make fun of him or they get rough w him, beat him up .. in a small community they might agree to take his name off the meals listing so he has to cook and eat all by himself.. that is humiliating.. so he moves on and stays in another place for a while.. and then maybe moves on again.. some do it all their lives.. nuchnibi, they’re called. i am sort of nuchnib.. i am here evading my own work posting. i moved farther than most..
who does the dirty work here? why.. are they paid more?
thinking there would be tons less dirty work if everyone were doing their art..
for dangerous work, sometimes.. for merely menial tasks.. no.. less..
why do the do them then?
because low pay is better than no pay.. oiie said and the bitterness in his voice was quite clear…. my grandfather was janitor.. scrubbed floors and changed dirty sheets in a hotel for 50 yrs.. ten hours a day, six days a week. he did it so that he and his family could eat.. oiie’s wife smiled and said in a nervous, childish voice..: emaere’s father was a very successful man. he owned four co’s when he died.. her smile was that of a person in pain, and her dark, slender hands were pressed tightly one over the other..
i don’t suppose you have successful men on anarres .. oiie said w heavy sarcasm..
140 (ch 6)
solitude was his fate; he was trapped in his heredity. she had said it : ‘the work comes first’ rulag had said it calmly, stating fact, powerless to change it , to break out of her cold cell. so it was w him.. his heart yearned towards them, the kindly young souls who called him brother, but he could not reach them, nor they him. he was born to be alone, a damned cold intellectual, and egoist..
the work came first, but it went nowhere..
there was nobody else to talk shop with
ideas never were controlled by laws and govts.. you can’t crush ideas by suppressing them. you can only crush them by ignoring them.. by refusing to think, refusing to change.. and that’s precisely what our society is doing.. .. he( sabul) gets it (his power over you) from the innate cowardice of the avg human mind.. public opinion.. that’ the power structure he’s part of , and knows how to use.. the unadmitted, inadmissible govt that rules the odonian society by stifling the individual mind..148
solidarity.. yes… but we’ve betrayed tha hope. we’ve let cooperation become obedience. on urras they have govt by the minority. here we have govt by the majority..
the social conscience isn’t a living thing any more.. but a machine.. a power machine, controlled by the bureaucrats..
anywhere that function demands expertise and a stable institution.. but that stability gives scope to the authoritarian impulse..
we don’t educate for freedom. education, the most important activity of the social org, has become rigid, moralistic, authoritarian. kids learn to parrot odo’s words as if they were laws .. the ultimate blasphemy..
music is a cooperative art, organic by defn, social. it may be th noblest form of social behavior we’re capable of. it’s certainly one of the noblest jobs an individual can undertake. and by its nature, by the nature of any art, it’s a sharing. the artist shares, it’s the essence of his act..‘to reassert its validity and strength, he thought, one need only act, w/o fear of punishment and w/o hope of reward: act from the center of one’s soul.. t
what’s wrong with pleasure, takver? why don’t you want it?
nothing’s wrong with it. and i do want it. only i don’t need it. and if i take what i don’t need, i’ll never get to what i do need..t
maté basic needs as infra
i need the bond.. the real one. body and mind and all the years of life. nothing else. nothing less..
this was different; i saw you. but i don’t know what you see now.. and i didn’t really know what i saw then. i didn’t know you well at all. only, when you spoke, i seemed to see clear into you, into the center.. but you might have been quite different from what i thought you were. that wouldn’t be your fault, after all.. it’s just that i knew what i saw in you was what i needed. not just wanted..
you were afraid if you came to me i might not want the bond.
not afraid. i knew you were a person who.. wouldn’t be forced.. well yes i was afraid. i was afraid of you. not of making a mistake. i knew it wasn’t a mistake. but you were – yourself. you aren’t like most people, you know. i was afraid of you because i knew you were my equal..
is that what you need then..?
yes. the bond.. the chance..
both were oversensitive and inexperienced. the strain did not last, as they became experts in each other..
180 (ch 7)
it was difficult for him to distrust the people he was with. he hd been brought up in a culture that relied deliberately and constantly on human solidarity, mutual aid. alienated as he was in some ways from that culture, and alien a she was to this one, still the lifelong habit remained: he assumed people would be helpful. he trusted them
(on working for 10 yrs.. and second guessing himself.. and wondering if he should give up or who he should talk to).. then he turned off the path.. crossed the campus in a diff direction, towards the station and caught a morning train to nio esseia..there’s got to be a door open somewhere on this damned planet.. the only place where he could get out of sight of his benevolent and protective hosts was in their own big city, under their noses..
on .. the beauty of the day being unjust.. what had the urrasti done to deserve it.. why was it given to them .. and so little.. to his own people..
i’m thinking like an urrasti, he said to himself.. like a damned propertarian.. as if deserving meant anything.. as if one could earn beauty, or life..
getting to nio esseia.. city of 5 mn.. doors.. where crowds of people came and went.. they all looked.. to him..a nxious.. was it because, no matter how much money they had, they always had to worry about making more..lest they die poor..? .. whatever the cause.. it gave all the faces a certain sameness and he felt very much alone among them.. in escaping his guides and guards he had not considered wha tit might be like to be on one’s own in a society where men did not trust one another.. where the basic moral assumption was not mutual aid, but mutual aggression. he was a little frightened..
it is an ugly world.. not like this one.. anarres is all dust and dry hills.. and the people aren’t beautiful..life is dull, and hard work.. you urrasti have enough… you are rich, you won. we are poor, we lack.. everything is beautiful here. only not the faces. on anarres nothing is beautiful, nothing but the faces. .. we have nothing but that, nothing but each other.. here you see the jewels, there you see the eyes.. and in the eyes you see the splendor, the splendor of the human spirit.. because our men nd women are free.. possessing nothing .. they are free.. and you the possessors are possessed.. you are all in jail. each alone, solitary, w a heap of what he owns.. you live in prison, die in prison.. it is all i can see in your eyes – the wall.. the wall..
217 (ch 8)
no law, no limit, no penalty, no punishment, no disapproval applied to any sexual practice of any kind, except the rape of a child or woman, for which the rapist’s neighbors were likely to provide summary revenge if he did not get promptly into the gentler hands of a therapy center.. but molestation was extremely rare in a society where complete fulfillment was the norm from puberty on
your own song ness
on other hand.. those who undertook to form and keep a partnership, whether homosexual or heterosexual , met with problems unknown to those content w sex wherever they found it. they must face not only jealousy and possessiveness and the other diseases of passion for which monogamous union provides such a fine medium of growth, but also the external pressures of social organization.. a couple that undertook partnership did so knowing that they might be separated at any time by the exigencies of labor distribution..
divlab.. tried to keep couples together.. to survive, to make a go of life.. an anarresti knew he had to be ready to go where he was needed and do the work that needed doing
ode wrote: a child free form the guilt of ownership and the burden of economic competition will grow up w the will to do what needs doing and the capacity for joy in doing it..t.. it is useless work that darkens the heart..the delight of … anyone doing needed work and doing it well – this durable joy is perhaps the deepest source of human affection and of sociality as a whole
240 (ch 9)
they owned him. he had thought to bargain w them, a very naive anarchist’s notion. the individual cannot bargain w the state. the state recognizes no coinage but power: and it issues the coins itself..
he had used number, the bridge between the rational and the perceived, between psyche and matter ‘number the indisputable’ as the ancient founders of the noble science had called it.. to employ mathematics in this sense was to employ the mode that preceded and led to all other modes..
both his theories of relativity were as beautiful, as valid, and as useful as ever after these centuries.. and yet both depended upon a hypothesis that could not be proved true and that could be and had been proved, in certain circumstances, false..
but was not theory of which all the elements were provably true a simple tautology? in the region of the unprovable, or even the disprobable, lay the only chance of breaking out of the circle and going ahead..t
in which case.. did the unprovablitilty of the hypothesis of real coexistence.. the problem which shevek had been pounding his head against desperately for these last three days, and indeed these last ten years – really matter?
he had been groping and grabbing after certainty, as if it were something he could possess… he had been demanding a security, a guarantee, which is not granted and which if grated would become a prison.. t .. by simply assuming the validity of real coexistence he was left free to use the lovely geometries of relativity; and then it would be possible to go ahead. the next step was perfectly clear.. the fundamental unity of the sequency and simultaneity points of view became plain; the concept of interval served to connect the static and the dynamic aspect of the universe.. how could he have stared at reality for ten years and not seen it?
security..e t al.. irrelevant
there would be no trouble at all in going on . indeed he had already gone on. he was there. he saw all that was to come in this first, seemingly causal glimpse of the method, given him by his understanding of a failure in the distant past.. the wall was down.. the vision was both clear and whole. what he saw was simple, simpler than anything else.. it was simplicity: and contained in it all complexity, all promise.. it was revelation. it was the way clear, the way home, the light..
the spirit in him was like a child running out into the sunlight. there was no end, no end..
to him a thinking man’s job was not to deny one reality at the expense of the other, but to include and to connect..
it’s not just because they want this idea of yours. but because you are an idea. a dangerous one. the idea of anarchism, made flesh. walking amongst us.. do you know that when people here want to wish each other luck they say… may you get reborn on anarres..
we are not seeking power.. we are seeking the end of power
we know that there is no help for us but from one another.. that no hand will save us if we do not reach out our hand. and that the hand that you reach out is empty.. as mine is.. you have nothing.. you possess/own nothing. you are free.. all you have is what you are and what you give
on anarres.. we have nothing but our freedom.. no law.. no govt/states/nations/presidents/.. bosses/bankers/landlords/wages/charity/police/soldiers/wars.. we are sharers not owners.. we are not prosperous.. none of us is rich/powerful.. you must come to it w empty hands.. alone.. naked.. you must give yourself.. you cannot buy/make the revolution.. you can only be the revolution..t
he explained to atro that he now understood why the army was org’d as it was (chain of command).. it was indeed quite necessary. no rational form of org would serve the purpose. he simply had not understood that the purpose was to enable men w machine guns to kill unarmed mean and women easily and in great quantities when told to do so.. only he still could not see where courage, or manliness, or fitness entered in..
291 (ch 10)
we’re ashamed to say we’ve refused a posting. that the social conscience completely dominates the individual conscience, instead of striking a balance w it. we don’t cooperate – we obey. we fear being outcast, being called lazy, dysfunctional, egoizing.. we fear our neighbor’s opinion more than we respect our own freedom of choice..
..we force a man outside the sphere of our approval, and then condemn him for it.. we’ve made laws, laws of conventional behavior, built walls all around ourselves, and we can’t see them, because they’re part of our thinking.. tir never did that. .. he never could build walls. he was a natural rebel.. .. he was a free man, and the rest of us, his brothers, drove him insane in punishment for his first free act..
but i’m luckier.. a scientist can pretend that this work isn’t himself, it’s merely the impersonal truth. an artist can’t hide behind the truth. he can’t hide anywhere..
shevek had learned something about his own will these last four years… in its frustration he had learned its strength.. no social or ethical imperative equaled it.. not even hunger could repress it.. the less he had, the more absolute became his need to be…
he recognized that need, in odonian terms, as he ‘cellular function’ the analogic term for the individual’s individuality.. the work he can do best.. therefore his best contribution to this society
a healthy society would let him exercise that optimum function freely, in the coordination of all such function finding its adaptability and strength.. that was central idea of odo’s analogy.. .. sacrifice might be demanded of the individual, but never compromise: for though only the society could give security and stability, only the individual, the person, had the power of moral choice – the power of change, the essential function of life.. the odonian society was conceived as a permanent revolution and revolution begins in the thinking mind
his sense of primary responsibility towards his work did not cut him off from his fellows, from his society, as he had thought. it engaged him w them absolutely..t
he also felt that a man who had this sense of responsibility about one thing was obliged to carry it thru in all things. it was a mistake to see himself as its vehicle and nothing else. to sacrifice any other obligation to it..
for her as for him, there was no end. there was process: process was all.. you could go in a promising direction or you could go wrong but you did not set out w the expectation of ever stopping anywhere.. all responsibilities all commitments thus understood took on substance and duration..
if you evade suffering you also evade the chance of joy.. pleasure you may get ,.. or pleasure, but you will not be fulfilled.. you will not know what it is to come home..
fulfillment, shevek thought, a function of time. the search for pleasure is circular, repetitive, atemporal.. always end s in same place.. it has an end. it comes to the end and has to start over.. it is not a journey and return, but a closed cycle, a locked room, a cell..
outside the locked room is the landscape of time, in which he spirit may, with luck and courage, construct the fragile, makeshift, improbable roads and cities of fidelity: a landscape inhabitable by human beings
it is not until an act occurs w/in the landscape of the past and the future that it is a human act.. loyalty which asserts the continuity of past and future, binding time into a whole is the root of human strength; there is no good to be done w/o it.
so looking back on last four years.. shevek saw them not as wasted, but as part of the edifice that he and takver were building w their lives. the thing about working w time, instead of against it, he thought, is that it is not wasted. even pain counts..
316 (ch 12)
no man earns punishment, no man earns reward. free your mind of the idea of deserving, the idea of earning, and you will begin to be able to think .. t.. – trepil speaking odo’d words from the prison letters..
earn a living et al
we didn’t come for safety, but for freedom. if we must all agree, all work together, we’re no better than a machine. if an individual can’t work in solidarity w his fellows, it’s his duty to work alone. his duty and his right. we have been denying people that right. we’ve been saying, more and more often, you must work w the others, you must accept the rule of the majority. but any rule is tyranny. the duty of the individual is to accept no rule, to be the initiator of his own acts, to be responsible. only if he does so will the society live, and change, and adapt, and survive. we are not subjects of a state founded upon law, but members of a society founded upon revolution. revolution is our obligation: our hope of evolution. the revolution is in the individual spirit, or it is nowhere.. it is for all, or it is nothing.. if it is seen as having any end, it will never truly begin..
public consensus always oppresses someone(s)
341 (ch 13)
on returning home.. wishing he’d brought the picture, the baby sheep, to give pilun.. but he had not brought anything. his hands were empty, as they had always been