Where There Were No Doors

Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were no doors before - Joseph Campbell

Friday, February 10, 2006

Read some Orwell

My friend Merrick recently gave me a very lovely gift... a weighty tome entitled 'Essays' by George Orwell. It is 1,300 pages of the finest, wisest, most insightful writing of the last century. Indeed, ever.

Every essay in the book; whether a newspaper column from the war years or a one page review of a long-forgotten book or a lengthy piece assessing the cultural impact of the work of Charles Dickens; every one of them contains within it at least one line or idea that forces you to think in a new way about something you'd previously taken for granted.

That's the essence of great political writing. Indeed, for me, Orwell is easily our finest political writer. Certainly he didn't have as great an impact as some others (Marx springs immediately to mind), but I'd argue that may be because - ironically enough - he's far more revolutionary. I don't have time to write my big "Read Orwell's Essays!" essay just yet, but I came across this wonderful paragraph and I felt compelled to share it with you...
Marx's famous saying that "religion is the opium of the people" is habitually wrenched out of its context and given a meaning subtly but appreciably different from the one he gave it. Marx did not say, at any rate in that place, that religion is merely a dope handed out from above; he said that it is something the people create for themselves, to supply a need that he recognized to be a real one. "Religion is the sigh of the soul in a soulless world. Religion is the opium of the people." What is he saying except that man does not live by bread alone, that hatred is not enough, that a world worth living in cannot be founded on "realism" and machine guns? If he had foreseen how great his intellectual influence would be, perhaps he would have said it more often and more loudly.
- George Orwell
Notes on The Way (April 1940)


- End -

1 Comments:

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