It’s up outside of this society. Growing up
It’s always fascinating to read a book from a different period of time, that still expresses relevant themes. First published in 1932, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is an exercise in social exploration and keen satire. The society outlined in the pages of Brave New World is one in which the citizens of the World State lack personal liberties and choice from the moment of conception. In a world where one’s future is predetermined, how much of an independent person can one really be? In Brave New World, Huxley writes about a character named John the Savage, a person from outside the social construct who does not agree with how the World State functions. As he was born outside of the confines of the World State, John does not share the beliefs of the rest of the World State’s citizens. While Transcendentalists such as Ralph Waldo Emerson or Henry David Thoreau would agree with John the Savage’s desire for a spiritual connection based in nature, his disturbance upon experiencing the conformity of the World State, and his distaste for material goods that exist in both his world and also ours. In Huxley’s World State, no one practices conventional religion, instead worshipping Henry Ford for his innovation. In the same vein, organized religion was replaced with a drug called Soma. This drug works like a hallucinogen, leaving the users inebriated for periods of time. To illustrate the connection of soma and religion, Huxley writes, “You can carry half of your mortality around with you in a bottle. Christianity without tears- that’s what soma is” (Huxley 244). Essentially, this quote says that soma can take the place of religion, and cause the users less pain. In the World State, the citizens forfeit their ability to practice their own religion, for a constant, undying happiness. This philosophy is not shared by John the Savage, a man who grew up outside of this society. Growing up in a “savage reservation” in New Mexico, John practiced a melange of Christianity and one of the local Native religions. As an example, one of the deities worshipped in John’s village is Pookong, who manifests in the form of a sacred eagle. John’s deepest spiritual connection lies in the nature surrounding his community on the reservation. This aligns with the belief of transcendentalists, because one of the fundamental pillars of transcendentalism is the reliance on nature for self-exploration. Transcendentalists, such as Emerson, believe that being in nature is important for being in touch with one’s own beliefs, as well as being important for connecting with one’s personal spirituality. This belief is explored when Emerson writes, “The lover of nature is he… who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood. His intercourse with heaven and earth, becomes part of his daily food” (182). According to Emerson, a true lover of nature is one who has retained their childhood spirit. When one can love nature in this fashion, they experience a spiritual connection to the natural objects that are around them. In this fashion, the beliefs of transcendentalists align with John the Savage’s spiritual connection to the reservation he came from. As previously touched on, the conformity of the World State is baffling to John on first encounter. The societal expectation of promiscuity, the following of Fordism, and the dependence on soma are all hard for John to comprehend. From birth, the citizens of the World State are conditioned that promiscuity is not only socially acceptable, but also expected: “After all, everyone belongs to everyone else” (Huxley 43). John comes from a community that would be considered extremely conservative to the people of the World State, still believing in things such as monogamy and marriage. In the confines of the World State, monogamy is taboo and alarming. This societal fascination with sex is one of things that truly distances John from the community he could never commit to. In addition, John never quite hopped on board with soma (and the Fordism it supplemented). A round peg in a square hole, John’s dismay at conformity also aligns with the beliefs of Transcendentalists. In his essay Self-Reliance, Emerson wrote, “Man must be non-conformist… Conformity blurs your vision and you cannot see the lies. Their two is not the real two”. Transcendentalists believe that an enlightened man on his own is more important than a group of the unenlightened. Further, in his essay, Emerson also wrote, “To be great is to be misunderstood”. This phrase truly encapsulates the tone of Transcendentalist thought on the subject of conformity. While Transcendentalists would not agree with many of the aspects of the World State, they would be equally displeased with our society today. Man experiences many pitfalls when looking at Transcendentalist beliefs. One of those such flaws is our societal dependence on material goods. The twenty-first century is powered by electronics.