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176 pages, Paperback
First published May 1, 1971
You have to help another person. But it's not right to play God with masses of people. To be God you have to know what you're doing. And to do any good at all, just believing you're right and your motives are good isn't enough.Who would you normally root for? A guy with the power to change the ugly dystopian world² but is unwilling to do so? Or a guy who actively tries to harvest this power to change the world for better? If you think the answer to this one is easy, think again.
² It never stops raining in this dystopian Portland, Oregon.This short beautifully written novel is very eloquent and thought-provoking. It raises endless questions. What is our responsibility as humans? Are we responsible for changing the world if we have the means? And for fixing the damage? How far can we go? When do we stop? Is it possible to stop? What are the consequences of playing God? How do we decide who should hold power? How much power can we handle? Can we control it? Do the means justify the ends? What do we choose - activity or passivity? Is it balance or complacency? Is our vision of the perfect world actually perfect and who is to decide?
So basically just like present-day Portland.
“A person who believes, as she did, that things fit: that there is a whole of which one is a part, and that in being a part one is whole: such a person has no desire whatever, at any time, to play God. Only those who have denied their being yearn to play at it.”Dr. Haber is an extroverted proactive sweet-talking dream specialist who wants to harvest Orr's power to make the world a better place (and get himself a bit of power in the meantime). He is frustrated with Orr's passive resistance. After all, "isn't that man's very purpose on earth - to do things, change things, run things, make a better world?" . His is sleazy, condescending, and manipulative, but ultimately NOT evil. His intentions are good - but what do they lead to? What means are used to change the world?
"The end justifies the means. But what if there never is an end? All we have is means."George becomes Haber's unwilling accomplice/subject, his goose who lays golden eggs. He is afraid of what his subconsciousness may do. Just because something is "ought to be", should it? What are the consequences? And he is right to be afraid - what we get in Haber's attempts to better the world is horrifying Plague to deal with overpopulation, gray skin color to battle race issues, euthanasia to battle cancer, alien "invasion" to achieve peace. Seems that the world may be better the way it is, imperfect as it may be.
"We're in the world, not against it. It doesn't work to try to stand outside things and run them, that way. It just doesn't work, it goes against life. There is a way but you have to follow it. The world is, no matter how we think it ought to be. You have to be with it. You have to let it be."And yet ultimately the frustration is with George as much as it is with Haber - after all, George's non-interference allows the horror to continue. But does he have the right to interfere at all? The previous attempts were not so good, after all. So is it our place at all to mess with the world order? Who are we to do this? What happens to the balance of things?
Haber: Life - evolution - the whole universe of space/time, matter/ energy - existence itself - is essentially change.It's a short read, but the one that is bound to stay with the reader for quite a while as we ponder over the questions it raises. The questions to which there may never be satisfying answers.
Orr: That is one aspect of it. The other is stillness."
‘Hanging, swaying, pulsing, the most vulnerable and insubstantial creature, it has for its defense the violence and power of the whole ocean, to which it has entrusted its being, its going, and its will.’
‘you’re a median…Both, neither. Either, or. Where there’s an opposed pair, a polarity, you’re in the middle; where there’s a scale, you’re the balance point.’