I completed my Elegance of the Hedgehog experience. Indeed, this is a heartbreaking story. It’s more than your average outcast meets cool stranger finds redemption.
The story asks the big question: does life have any meaning?
The book does the only thing you can do with that question… contextualize it, swirl it around, test it. Ultimately it remains non-answered with a tilt towards “just when you think life does have meaning something happens to make you question it.”
This is book is loaded.
* All humans carry mystical bagage (fate!, rights!, free will!, God’s way!, rain god!)
* Western society romances the truth for children (where there’s a will, there’s a way!)
* Humans do what the environment shapes them to do (social circles, castes, roles in life, culture, family)
* Changing course requires changing the environment (circle of friends, physical change…)
* Beauty is…really hard to define
* Being lonely sucks but false relationships might suck worse
* Intelligence is not an end in itself, it is a biological tool to help us survive
About that last bullet point this passage from page 165-167 haunts me. And, yes, it’s personal.
“Fascination with intelligence is in itself fascinating, but I don’t think it’s a value in itself. There are tons of intelligent people out there and there are a lot of retards, too. I’m going to say something really banal but intelligence, in itself, is neither valuable nor interesting. Very intelligent people have devoted their lives to the question of the sex of angels, for example. But many intelligent people have a sort of bug: they think intelligence is an end in itself. They have one idea in mind: to be intelligent, which is really stupid. And when intelligence takes itself for its own goal, it operates very strangley: the proof that it exists is not to be found in the ingenuity or simplicity of what it produces, but in how obscurely it is expressed… It is not a sacred gift, it is a primate’s only weapon.”
Ouch. This is what I mean about this book non-answering the big questions. The author drives a stake through intelligence as a good to possess and recasts it as the simple tool it is. AND… here we are reading a philosophical book with poetic characters that wax about the meaning of life and profound thoughts!
So… is it just a biological weapon? and if so, how is this book a wielding of that weapon?
This is a trickier question than it might seem regardless of your take on the matter.
And on that note… I’m going to a giant book festival now to wield my weapon and probably keep this pathological search for meaning going for another day. and maybe that’s just it. if I stopped looking for or ceased creating meaning, how would I survive?