I’ve just bought an e-book to take with me to the beach next week: “The Silence of Animals: On Progress and Other Modern Myths” by John Gray. As illiterate as I am, I had never heard of Gray until I watched this British RSA video. Interestingly, when considering Gray’s subtitle, this bit of the RSA’s mission is a tad ironic:
“Underpinning our work are enduring beliefs in human progress,…”
Gray deeply admires Joseph Conrad’s insights and art and uses his works to to illustrate his theme in the opening chapter — which I began today. I still vividly remember being deeply disturbed by the 1965 movie “Lord Jim” based of Conrad’s novel. I was was only about 13 years-old (my son’s age now) when I saw the film. The influences of that film still resonate with me to this day.
As I watched the RSA video, I simultaneously read a few reviews which discussed Gray’s writings and ideas and I thought, “Wow, I share much with this man. I’ve got to read him.”
On Triangulations, I explore both the foibles of religion and the tendency to think that only religionists organize their lives around flawed myths. One of those myths is “Progress” — but putting it that way simply begs for misunderstanding as does any sound-byte banner. However, I will wait to explore that in future posts.
I look forward to reading Gray’s insights and re-watching Lord Jim and perhaps actually reading Conrad with the mind of someone who has now seen, first-hand, British imperialism. As I read the first seven pages of “The Silence of Animals”, I’ve am already thinking about how, like Conrad, people go into medicine (the Congo) with myths that change the person by the two options of culpable absorption or nihilistic disillusion. But it is the third, fourth and fifth options I am interested in and curious to see how Gray understands them.
Question to Readers: Many of my readers have probably read Gray. I hope to understand him a bit more by the end of the summer. But for now, tell me your impressions.