Walking Away From Omelas, Pt. 4

Here are Parts 12, and 3.

IV. Reality and Stories

The stories we tell ourselves about suffering are important, and fiction is one of the ways we mediate that story. The secret of literature is that we can paradoxically get closer to the truth in fiction than in reality. But I want to qualify the “truth” that fiction provides. It doesn’t necessarily provide us with “the way things are.” Rather, it provides us with a way of figuring out what we really believe. It is the truth about the lies we tell ourselves. The story we tell ourselves about our organic food purchase doesn’t necessarily tell us about the organic food, but it does tell us something about ourselves as consumers. And the story Le Guin tells doesn’t give us an objectively true theology of suffering as much as it tells us what we believe about the relationship between our own happiness and the world’s suffering.

Continue reading “Walking Away From Omelas, Pt. 4”

Advertisements
Walking Away From Omelas, Pt. 4

Walking Away From Omelas, Pt. 3

Here are Parts 1 and 2.

III. STORIES AND REALITY

Does the story change if we admit “reality”? It could be that the vicious cycle of guilt I described has been occasioned by taking a mere “story” too seriously. Fiction begets fiction.

But this is far too easy.

Here’s one way I know that “reality” is just as informed by fiction as an Ursula Le Guin short story: Seth Godin and Slavoj Zizek make the same point about organic food.

Godin and Zizek

Continue reading “Walking Away From Omelas, Pt. 3”

Walking Away From Omelas, Pt. 3

Walking Away From Omelas, Pt. 2

You can read Pt. 1 here.

II. ACCOUNTING FOR SUFFERING

When I’ve presented Le Guin’s story to college freshmen, we end up talking about the same thing: with very little effort, we can craft a story that makes our gain the expense of another’s loss.

Students can quickly brainstorm a list of items they consume that they also *know* have shady production histories: Nike shoes, McDonald’s hamburgers, or the movie they ganked from BitTorrent.

Continue reading “Walking Away From Omelas, Pt. 2”

Walking Away From Omelas, Pt. 2

Walking Away From Omelas, Pt. 1

Note: I’ll be posting a five part essay on Ursula Le Guin’s story “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” over the next couple of days. Here’s Part 1.

I. STORIES WE TELL OURSELVES

At the end of Ursula K. Le Guin’s story “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas,” the reader has a choice: stay or walk away. This is the same choice the characters in the story have.

Those who stay get to be happy, but they do so at the expense of an abused child hidden deep within one of the city’s buildings. They know the child exists, but they also know that helping the child will mean an end to their happiness.

Continue reading “Walking Away From Omelas, Pt. 1”

Walking Away From Omelas, Pt. 1