October 24th, 2018

The Dune novels were written by Frank Herbert several decades ago. Herbert was able to create extremely complex and holistic fantasy worlds in his stories. A great deal of what currently passes for science fiction lacks any kind of internal consistency (this includes the Dune books written by Herbert’s son). The genius of Frank Herbert was that he could invent worlds that were both exotic and believable. His stories always, at least, seemed to be possible. 

There is a recurring theme in all of the Dune novels. The story often revolves around the ability of the main characters to predict the future. They use a drug called melange in order to see what things would come. Herbert describes this faculty for precognition as a gift and a curse, mostly as a curse. It is both a source of immense power and a trap.

In his book, Dune Messiah, Herbert tells the tale of Paul Atreides, a man who can see the future clearly, but can do almost nothing to change it. Herbert meticulously describes the feelings of a person who knows everything that will happen, and also knows that free will is mostly an illusion. The story is a tragedy, like those of the ancient Greeks. The book is unsettling, not so much because of all the violence and suffering in it, but because the main character is bored by it all. Paul already knows all of the future. He has already seen it, and lived it.

My life is never boring. Every day God throws me a curve ball. I will not say that every surprise is a pleasant one, but I am grateful them nonetheless. I would rather say, “What the fuck?”, than say, “Oh, this shit again.”

I suspect the difference between boredom and interest is how a person engages with the world. I know people who hunker down and avoid anything new in their lives. Their lives are necessarily boring. Others seek out new things, and their lives are chaotic and a bit scary. The universe, by its very nature, is a bit scary.

There are, perhaps, two sorts of people. There are those who only want answers, and there are those who only want questions. When we know all of the answers, we are dead. Only the living can ask questions.

I am not a fan of utter chaos. I understand the need for some kind of order and logic. My wife’s parents survived World War II in Germany. I have friends who are Syrian refugees. My oldest son experienced the violence of the war in Iraq. People suffer for no good reason. There is a limit to what humans can endure. An irrational universe is difficult to accept.

I also know people who live in their quiet suburban neighborhoods, knowingly unknowing about the suffering all around them. They live in a a false security. They go to their churches and hear words that are designed to reassure them. They try to keep at bay the madness that may eventually overwhelm them. They want the soothsayers and the oracles. They want the answers. They want the solid, unalterable truths that will keep them safe forever. They want to be Paul Atreides.

I am a fool. I want to be surprised. I want every day to be a new day. I want the unexpected. I want to live.




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