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Conched Out

November 23rd, 2017

Turkey Vanquished; Lit. Hum. Defeated

Thanksgiving dinner has come and gone. Could have been worse. My friend Amanda came by with her kids, and we shared the load. The turkey came out great, and Amanda supplied pies.

I nearly got a hall pass this year. This morning, a huge blob of thunderstorms went through my area, and I lost electricity. You don’t want to be without power on Thanksgiving morning. I couldn’t cook, bathe, or even wash my hands. Possible down side: highly screwed-up Thanksgiving for two families. Possible up side: no cooking.

The juice returned after maybe 90 minutes, leaving me still obligated yet behind schedule. I did the best I could, and we ended up eating later than I had hoped.

I learned something new this year. Cracker Barrel stays open on Thanksgiving. I called them, told them my power was out, and asked if they were open. The lady told me to come on down and not to worry. I love the people here. She really felt bad about my power outage.

While I waited for the power to come back on, I killed time reading the last of Lord of the Flies. This is the last book on my version of the Columbia College Literature Humanties reading list. I have finally done all the reading. I should look my old professor up and tell him. I really annoyed him. If I went to his office today and told him I had finished my reading, he would probably punch me in the face. He would still remember me; the king of wasted potential.

My conclusion, after putting myself through this ordeal: books that were great for their time are not always great books. Some are very bad. Crime and Punishment comes to mind. Also, Columbia College includes a number of overrated writers in their curriculum for the sake of political correctness, and they don’t mind sacrificing their students’ time or their students’ parents’ money on the altar of diversity.

When you consider what Columbia charges parents, the only reasonable position to take is that every single word a student reads should be important. Jamming Alice Walker down someone’s throat in a course that costs $4000 should be illegal.

Academics are quite possibly the single most likely group to see the emperor’s clothes when they’re not there. Academics are herd creatures, and they are incapable of independent thought. If an academic thinks other academics think Virginia Woolf’s wretched, inept To the Lighthouse is a great book, that academic is certain to agree. Students are forced to read a lot of overrated crap, simply because college professors are incapable of dissent.

It makes sense that professors are afraid to have dissenting opinions. Generally, they are mediocre intellects. They are fungible. Fire one, and you can find a dozen to replace him the next day. When your product is a commodity, not a franchise, you have to be very careful not to make anyone mad, because you are expendable. On the other hand, if, say, a top-flight professional athlete feels like saying what’s on his mind, people will put up with it, because such athletes are hard to replace.

When I was at Columbia, a baseball player named Chris got the idea that someone was after his ex-girlfriend, Carolyn. Chris was maybe 6’5″ tall. Strong guy. He walked up behind the other man, who was much smaller and wearing glasses, and he attacked from the rear, giving him a severe beating. Nothing of significance happened to Chris. He was hard to replace. If a random history professor had done that, he would have been fired.

Carolyn was a babe, incidentally. Really beautiful. She took me aside at a party one night and started talking to me. Good thing I had no game whatsoever, or I could have ended up with a concussion.

I just Googled her, out of curiosity. She died suddenly in 2010. Sad.

Not really interested in what happened to Chris. I hope the guy he beat doesn’t have dementia from it.

Some of the Lit. Hum. books I read were bad, yet important historically or advanced for their times. Virginia Woolf was just bad. For any era. Awful.

Vogon-poetry awful.

I’m glad I did the reading. I learned a few things. I got a clearer understanding of the development of western literature and culture. Nonetheless, I suffered considerably.

As for Lord of the Flies, I read it in a few days, whereas other Lit. Hum. books took weeks. The reason is this: it wasn’t as painful to read. It had a plot. It had action. The characters, though shallow and unappealing, had distinct personalities. Some did, anyway. It was nice to get into a book without dreading the battle to get back out.

If you haven’t read the book, stop reading, because there will be spoilers.

I’ll tell you how the book goes. There is a war. We are told almost nothing about it. A bunch of kids are put on a plane. The point seems to be to get them out of danger, but it’s not very clear. The plane crashes on a tropical island, and the adults on the plane die. The kids have to fend for themselves. They end up electing a leader. A violent rival takes the kids away from him. The rival’s new gang murders two kids and tries to kill a third (the first leader), but before they can get him, a boat shows up, and the kids are rescued by the British navy. Suddenly the scary gang that tried to kill the former leader looks like what it is: a bunch of little kids with pointed sticks.

The book has weaknesses. For one thing, Golding can’t describe anything. If he tried to describe a square cardboard box to you, you might think he was talking about a crystal chandelier. He tries to describe the island and other things, but you never get a clear idea what any of it looks like. You have to give up and not worry about it. You can’t even tell how many boys there are. Also, the characters are very thinly drawn. They don’t have interesting characteristics that make them stand out from each other.

Golding tried to describe coconuts, and he said they looked like skulls. The only coconuts that look like skulls are husked coconuts. With the husks still on, as they would be found on an uninhabited island, they look nothing like skulls. It’s like Golding only saw coconuts on Gilligan’s Island, where they fell pre-husked.

Like most Lit. Hum. books, Lord of the Flies does not contain a single laugh. I’m not sure how anyone can write two hundred pages without saying anything funny or clever, but Homer did it, Virgil did it, Woolf did it, Dostoevsky did it…it’s remarkable, how many Lit. Hum. authors were not even slightly witty or inclined to humor. It’s like they shared a bizarre mental illness.

Cervantes made jokes, but they were cruel and stupid. Here’s the kind of thing Cervantes would have found amusing: a man tries to hit his servant in the face with a club, but he misses, falls, and knocks all of his front teeth out on a fence post.

Lord of the Flies has a plot, which is a nice thing for a book to have, but it’s not intricate, original, or clever. There are no brilliant twists or turns. Kids get marooned. Kids form violent factions. Kids kill other kids. Kids are rescued. I don’t think the plot is what makes the book.

One important character is a dead person. I’m referring to the Beast. Some of the kids think there is a big, hairy creature on the island, and that it may eventually kill them. They make expeditions to find it and kill it. Meanwhile, an aerial battle takes place above the island. A man parachutes out of a plane. His dead body lands on a mountain in a sitting position, with his parachute still attached. When the wind blows, he raises his head as though he’s looking at people. One of the kids sees him one night, and he decides he’s the Beast.

To flesh out the character of the Beast, a kid named Simon has a psychotic episode. A boy named Jack leads a group that kills a pig, and they leave the pig’s head on a stick as a sacrifice to the Beast. Simon looks at the head one day, and it starts speaking to him, saying it’s the Beast and that he’s not wanted on the island. Simon is the first boy the gang murders.

The Beast device taps into some pretty weird, primal notions, or at least it seems that way to me, a religious nut.

The Bible tells us a Christ-hating upstart called the Beast will rise up to try to take God’s place. Most eschatologists think the Beast will be a ruler; a man. My own suspicion is that the Beast is just the spirit that rules the carnal masses. Beasts are ruled by their flesh. Destructive, ignorant people are ruled by their flesh. The word “carnal” means “ruled by the flesh.” Maybe there will be a single man who personifies the Beast, but I think the Beast will be the masses. Think Antifa. Think BLM. Think Pol Pot.

In Lord of the Rings, a boy with common sense tries to lead the group. His name is Ralph. He’s a builder. He gets himself elected chief. He tries to make rules. He tries to make the kids keep a signal fire going. His enemy is Jack, and Jack is neither a builder nor a thinker. He’s a looter and destroyer. Jack leads a troop called the hunters. They kill pigs for everyone to eat. Jack is too dumb to think about signal fires. He is a populist. He appeals to the basest drives of his friends. He tells them they’ll hunt all day and “have fun.” He offers to do away with rules.

Ralph’s consiglieri is a fat kid nicknamed Piggy. In a violent book about kids, you don’t have to be told what will happen to Piggy. Piggy is very smart, and he gives excellent advice, but he is prime bully bait, so he can never be the chief. Piggy can barely see. He wears glasses. Jack attacks him, breaking one lens of his glasses, leaving Piggy half blind. Later in the book, he takes the glasses with the remaining lens, leaving Piggy to be led around like Homer.

Piggy is like a prophet. In the Bible, prophets were sighted, but in other traditions, they had vision problems. Tiresias was blind. The cyclopes gave up binocular vision for limited clairvoyance; they were able to see their own deaths. I’m too lazy to look up other blind prophets.

Like a prophet, Piggy sees the truth, and he is attacked and eventually killed for it. Weird.

The dead aviator is a good choice for the image of the Beast, because he’s all flesh, with the mind and spirit gone. He rots. Carnal people rot, figuratively. It takes effort and gumption to make people rise above hogs and monkeys, just as it takes energy for the body of a living person to fight off disease and decomposition. What do you see when you look at Antifa and BLM? Rot. Human beings acting like animals. New generations becoming less intelligent and less powerful than their predecessors.

The aviator has no power of his own. He moves, literally, with the wind. A beastly (carnal) leader is like that. They don’t really lead. They follow. The voice of the crowd blows them this way and that. Remember Obama? Interesting.

The word “spirit” literally means “breath,” which is a type of wind. We live because the breath of God is in us. The Beast of the Apocalypse will have the spirit of Satan in him, animating and empowering him like a wind in a parachute.

Simon is killed by Jack’s mob as he tries to tell them the Beast is a dead body. They don’t pay attention to anything he says. They’re in the grip of a bizarre, tribal bloodlust, like backward natives jumping up and down in Africa. After they kill him, a wind fills the aviator’s chute, lifts him off the mountain, and drags him over the site where Simon is killed. The aviator then plunges into the sea.

In the Bible, seas symbolize masses of beings. More specifically, they symbolize their combined voices. When a lot of people speak against you, it’s like sinking into a sea. When Peter looked only at Jesus, he was raised above the sea, and it became the platform that supported him. God promised Jesus he would make his enemies his footstool. When Peter stood on the sea, it was a picture of God’s children resting their feet on hostile humanity.

A leader who rose from a sea of carnal voices deserves to sink into a sea. Isn’t that Satan’s future? When he is exposed as a powerless manipulator, the beings he fooled will want some payback, and presumably, he will sink into their midst and be tormented without mercy.

The boys’ adventure made me think about fatherlessness. This is a fatherless world, because we reject the Father and his messengers. Wisdom and knowledge are treasures, and we are supposed to pass them on to new generations, but we reject God, throwing these treasures away. As a result, every generation has to start from scratch, and we never reach the heights we were designed for. The boys in the book had no fathers. They were alone. One adult could have provided them sufficient wisdom to bring them order and peace, but lacking an adult, they listened to Jack instead. They were like modern Americans. We don’t know God, so we listen to doomed imbeciles like Kanye West and the Kardashians. With every generation, we get weaker, not stronger.

When the naval officer showed up at the end of the book, he was like Jesus, returning to order the world. When he showed up, with true authority on his side, Jack suddenly looked very small and powerless. His power instantly vanished, and Ralph’s power reappeared. The Bible says people will marvel when Satan, who scared us so much, is revealed. We will be amazed at how puny he is.

I found these ideas interesting as I read the book. Lord of the Flies was the only Lit. Hum. book that stirred me on a spiritual level. It wasn’t illuminating, but it made me think about things I already believed.

My guess is that William Golding never considered any of these things. I would also guess that my take on the book is nothing like the interpretation promoted by the sheep of academia.

It was pleasant to read a book that wasn’t excruciatingly tedious and which gave me things to think about.

Should I go ahead and read the books on Columbia’s Contemporary Civilization list? I don’t know. They’re horrible. Hobbes. Locke. Macchiavelli. Plato. Yech. Besides, I probably did the reading for that course when I was at Columbia.

I never did Art Humanities (another core course). I believe I started and then dropped it. I don’t know how I would go about recreating that course on my own. It wasn’t just readings. There were a ton of slides. I love slide courses. Sit around in the dark, look at slides, write some BS on the exam, and get at least a B.

If I decide to do any more studying, you will read about it here, if you can stand it.

Hope I didn’t spoil the book for you, but if I did, it’s your own fault, because I warned you.

Happy Thanksgiving. Don’t mention Christmas to me.

5 Responses to “Conched Out”

  1. musical mountaineer Says:

    I think one of the standard interpretations of the book is that the conflict on the island is a microcosm of the war in the world. When the boys are rescued at the end, they aren’t really rescued; they’re still humans, still mortal, still in a war. Who will rescue the rescuers?

  2. Steve H. Says:

    What a shallow interpretation. I would hate to read the book and then find out that was all it meant. Sounds like the moral to an old Star Trek episode. I’m glad I was too lazy to read the Cliff’s Notes.

  3. Nick Says:

    I’m just glad Thanksgiving is over. I look for reasons to avoid my in-laws the other 364 days of the year, and Thanksgiving is that one day where I have to spend more than 3 minutes with them and cannot see to find and escape route.

  4. Steve B Says:

    I don’t know if the author intended it that way, but I think your interpretation has merit. I think you can see it in the progressive vs conservative mindsets. Conservatives, in my experience, tend to be more practical, factual, and logic-based, whereas the Progressive worldview give us Antifa, BLM, the Occupy movement, and “woke” moms pushing their toddlers in strollers down through the middle of the Folsom Street Fair. I work with a couple of pretty liberal folks, and they keep talking about how far conservatives have “moved to the right.” It’s like someone in a rocket ship headed into space looking out a porthole and exclaiming how fast the Earth is moving away from them. What has changed, really, in the conservative worldview? Almost nothing. But the progs want us to believe that gender neutral bathroom, transgender teens, and abortion on demand have always been the norm and it’s those crazy right-wingers who are going off the deep end with their wild-eyed ideas about traditional marriage and the sanctity of human life.

    I agree with you that the “anti-Christ” is a spirit or way of thinking (which we are already seeing so much of), although it may come to be embodied in a world leader who, like Obama, promises much and ultimately delivers only destruction. Interesting times.

  5. Lee Says:

    Another standard interpretation is that men are savages by nature, that man’s savagery is mitigated by civilization, and that civilization is fragile and always in peril.

    Golding would probably say he was taking the Hobbesian position to refute Rousseau. Rousseau certainly deserves it.

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