some plane reading

So I’ve arrived back in the UK after a few months of Australian summer. 

On the plane I was reading some short stories by Aldous Huxley and I thought I’d share a passage from it.

I’d been having conversations about how environmental discussions were so piled with emotions that people were unable to converse about them properly (a little like my previous post regarding the discussions on feminism) and the following seemed related.

“Then he sat me down by me and said he’d been spending the morning wrestling with the problem of speaking the truth in books; so I said, but haven’t you always spoken it? because that always seemed to me the chief point of M.’s books. But he said, not much, because most of it was quite unspeakable in our world, as we found it too shocking and humiliating.  So I said, all the same I didn’t see why it shouldn’t be spoken, and he said, nor did he in theory, but in practice  he didn’t want to be lynched. And he said, look for example at those advertisements in American magazines with the photos and life stories of people with unpleasant breath. So I said, yes, aren’t they simply too awful. Because they really do make one shudder. And he said, precisely, there you are, and they’re so successful because everyone thinks them so terribly awful. They’re outraged by them, he said, just as you’re outraged, and they rush off and buy the stuff in sheer terror, because they’re so terrified of being an outrage physically to other people. And he said, that’s only one small sample of all the class of truths, pleasant and unpleasant that you can’t speak, except in scientific books, but that doesn’t count, because you deliberately leave our feelings outside in the cloakroom when you’re being scientific. And just because they’re unspeakable, we pretend they’re unimportant, but they aren’t, on the contrary, they’re terribly important, and he said, you’ve got to examine your memory quite sincerely for five minutes to realize it, and of course he’s quite right. When I think of Miss Poole giving me piano lessons – but no, really, one can’t write these things, and yet one obviously ought to, because they are so important, the humiliating physical facts, both pleasant and unpleasant (though I must say, most of the ones I can think of seem to be unpleasant), so important in all human relationships, he says, even in love, which is really rather awful, but of course one must admit it. And M. said it would take a whole generation of being shocked and humiliated and lynching the shockers and the humiliators before people could settle down to listening to that sort of truth calmly, which they did do, he says, at certain times in the past, at any rate much more than they do now. And the say that when they can listen to it completely calmly, the world will be quite different from what it is now, so I asked, in what way? but he said he couldn’t clearly imagine, only he knew it would be different.”

– Aldous Huxley, After the Fireworks

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Photos are from a recent trip to Olhao in Portugal where I always get a bit obsessed with the tiles. They’ll eventually become inspiration for fabric prints I think.

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One thought on “some plane reading

  1. I take the Ukraine standoff as an example of a ”bitter truth”. Putin says that Crimea is primarily Russian-speaking – true. But he can walk in – false, or rather, not fair. He tells us Iraq was illegitimate and our diplomats/politicans etc say’ ”Oh yes, well. you see.. I mean that situation is rather.. from a certain point of view”.. No, Iraq was completely illegal and we sacrificed innocent people, including our own. Afghanistan, Libya barely legal, certainly not moral (not that it was the troops’ fault, they were following orders). And the environment.. Telling the truth about Iraq at Melbourne Uni at the time didn’t do me any favours. In the long run, our own blindness has done the West any favour either. Great post, Kat..

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