Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A community thought experiment, from Ursula Le Guin

The ones who walk away from Omelas (pdf)

Would you choose to leave, or stay?

What do you think your fellow community members would do?



Don Pelton said...

I loved Le Guin's Earthsea Trilogy when I was a young man, and appreciated them even more after I spent some years delving into Jungian psychology. Le Guin knew Jung, and much of her writing draws on his insights.

She had a wonderful essay called something like "Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons?"(in a book called "Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction").

She wrote the best single line ever written about growing up, and it was in the context of the appreciation of fantasy. The line was something like, "An adult is a child who survived."

I understood her sentence to mean that -- contrary to the Biblical notion that an adult "puts away childish things" -- a fully realized adult is one who carries the best of childish impulses (including an ability to fantasize) into adulthood.

So, would I leave Omelas or not?

Yes, I would!

Or, I'd stay and free the child from the cellar ... which is the same thing in psychological terms.

The town itself is like a dysfunctional psyche, with some parts living joyously in light and other parts locked away in darkness and pain.

In the tale, those who leave do so only after this encounter with their "dark side."

The task before them now is to integrate all those disparate parts into a whole. They begin their quest to do that by leaving (or staying and freeing the child).

The town is at once a metaphor for the individual dysfunctional psyche, and also a metaphor for a society built on dysfunctional psyches.

IMHO ...

Don Pelton said...

By the way, when I said "LeGuin knew Jung" I only meant that she knew his work.