Saturday, March 22, 2008

Evil Serves Good Despite It's Cunning: Valis and Me.

Valis. Ok, it seemed totally scary. All I knew about K. Dick was that a lot of supernerds like him.
And then I read the Eggtown reviews on DarkUFO that explained what happened in the book (specifically J. Wood) and I was like uhhh this is gonna suck and be way way too technical but the front cover looks cool. So I checked it out of the library and let it sit around until it was overdue. Then I picked it up, and read it, and guess what? It ruled.

Valis is introduced at the beginning of Eggtown, when Locke brings it down to Prisoner Ben. Ben says "I've already read it", and Locke says "You might catch something you missed the second time around." Of course a wink and a nod to the rewatchability of Lost, but after reading this book I can say that you could read this book 20 times and keep catching (and losing) things... It's freaking crazy. In case we missed how hard they beat the "This Book is Important" idea into our heads, Ben's reading the book in The Other Woman and asks "Has the revolution begun yet?" which, if I'm not mistaken is a line in the book.

So what's VALIS about? I'm going to try to keep it to one paragraph. It's Philip K Dick's theological manifesto. It's about cosmic dualisms and time as the 4th dimension (referencing Wagner (which is also relevant to LOST)) and the 5th Savior (Walt? Aaron?) and the overlap of world and the rationality/irrationality of the divine and drugs and madness and early Christianity and gnosticism, and suicide and illness and pink lasers that transmit information that cures people in mind and body, and about death and resurrection, and how questions of death and resurrection are affected when time turns into space. But mostly, it makes no sense and doesn't have a plot and is kind of like a cross between Vonnegut and Flann O'Brien (Third Policeman guy). Ok, you know that sounds like Lost. You know it. And it's brilliant, and it makes no sense. And it's really interesting to see how it's played out in the episodes after Eggtown, episodes especially full of madness (Freighties), time-lapsing mind travel (Desmond), and ...not pink, but lasers nonetheless...and complicated unclear cosmic dualisms (Ben vs. Widmore for serious!)...and oh, here's Daniel's pink light:

So I think the thing to do is to quote wholesale from the book, because I can't explain it myself. Lets do that after the jump..

Here's the first one re: the powers that be and the power that they have over the rank and file:

"'The Empire never ended," Fat quoted to himself...During the interval in which he experienced the two world superimposition, he had seen not only California, USA, of the year 1974 but also ancient Rome, he had discerned within the superimposition a Gestalt shared by both space-time continua, their common element: a Black Iron Prison. Everyone dealt in it without realizing it. The Black Iron Prison was their world."

After the characters see the movie VALIS...Screencaps anyone?:

Well, we'll all have to go see the picture again...ninety percent of the details are designed to go by you the first time-- actually only go by your conscious mind; they register in your unconscious. I'd like to study the film frame by frame.

The 2 year old 5th Savior tells them:

God has also set the one over against the other; the good against the evil, and the evil against the good; the good proceeds from the good, and the evil from the evil; the good purifies the bad, and the bad the good; the good is preserved for the good, and the evil for the bad ones... This means that good will make evil into what evil does not wish to be; but evil will not be able to make good into what good does not wish to be. Evil serves good, despite its cunning."

After they leave this 2 year old girl who speaks in ancient tongues and who they think is the 5th Savior. .. And keep in mind this is the late 70s, about 25 years ago, so 20 years forward would take us nearly to the present day, when, maybe, the forces of evil are back at the helm?:

Where would she surface? ...Would we have to wait until she grew to adulthood? That might be eighteen years. In eighteen years Ferris E. Fremount, to use the name in the film [a stand-in for Nixon], could have taken over the world--again. We needed help now. But then I thought, You always need the Savior now. Later is always too late.

The book sends in a paradox of hopefulness and hopelessness, complete madness and utter sanity, still waiting for the 5th savior. A few lines from the last page:

The symbols of the divine show up in our world initially at the trash stratum. Or so I told myself...The divine intrudes where you least expect it...My search kept me at home; I sat before the TV set in my living room. I sat; I waited; I watched; I kept myself awake. As we had been told, originally, long ago, to do; I kept my commission.

Ok, so I know that sitting and watching TV looking for some sign of the divine is a little (or a lot) pathetic, but then you can come back out from that and look for it in the real world too. For all its schizophrenic sci-finess, VALIS is equally and crazily a theological treaty; and for that reason I read it with glee. LOST Season 2 looked like it was going in that direction with Mr. Eko and the Claire as Mary Vision, but it pulled back in Season 3. Season 4 has seen hints of the deepily paranormal creeping in at faster and faster rates, and I couldn't be happier. The religiousness of VALIS, and of LOST by extension, is totally crazy and totally drawing parallels and pulling together the stories and world views of the Dogon people and the Zoroastrians and Norse Myth and Greek Myth and Buddhism and the Christians and everything without prejudice or apology, and all, ultimately for Good. Crazy good, but good.

Which is why I think Lost is going to have a happy ending, when it all comes down to it. It might be a crazy, tiny beer-can sized sign of the divine sort of happy ending, but it will be there. If you're not with me on that I understand. Read VALIS again, you might catch something you missed the second time around.

To break from that: I'm not actually as crazy as Dick. but I did enjoy feeling a little bit like it while reading his book. I do think being open to the good and awesome stories in past, present, and future religious and mythic traditions is a worthwhile endeavor. Thanks Horselover Fat. And thanks Darlton. I'm hooked. I want to read the Brothers Karamozov next if I can, but I've seriously got some Harry Potter to read before I do so. And we've got to add Jules Verne to our list don't we? Well, goodnight friends. Happy Easter.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

In which I meet the one and only Terry O'Quinn

So about a week and a half ago, our third friend (yes,we have another friend) told me that Terry O'Quinn was going to be visiting Illinois Wesleyan University to see his brother who works in the theater department and to talk to IWU theater students. Well, I don't know if you've heard, but I am totally crazy about TOQ. Duh. My heart stopped at the very mention of him on g-mail chat. So I said PLEASE, let me go. Alex said: sure, you can even go in my place, since my mom can bring one guest. I said hm...okay I am just that greedy. I will plan to just totally take your place. Over the weekend we decide that we'd drive together and we'd both try to get in.

The fateful Tuesday arrived. The winter storms came through--freezing rain followed by snow and blizzard winds. I watched the IDOT as it said that the highways were clear of snow, then 25% ice cover, and then 75%. But Alex arrived at lunch time, ready to brave the frozen wasteland of I-74 for the purposes of our quest. The drive was more-or-less white-knuckle, but he never flinched--instead he spent a long time explaining Battlestar Galactica to me. Gee thanks. This is what the weather looked like when we arrived. Quite appropriate.

Upon arrival in Bloomington, we went out for lunch with Alex's mom and she informed us that she had been to a department lunch with Mr. O'Quinn and he was very nice, but shorter than she had thought. I drooled to know I was in such close proximity to him...but maybe that was just the pico de gallo.

After our lunch, we went to the student center to get some hot cocoa and wander around until it was time for his talk. I remember the moment perfectly. Alex got skim milk in his cocoa, I got 2% with whipped cream on top. We were chattering happily and waiting for our drinks when we suddenly fell silent. Basically here is how it went: in a nearly empty student center, on a snowy march afternoon, I saw John Locke in the flesh walking towards the coffee counter where I was standing, ultimately stopping pretty darn close to us. I tugged on Alex's arm over and over--he had frozen up completely. He finally acknowledged what was going on by moving to the far side of the counter, as far away from Mr. O'Quinn as possible. When our cocoa came after what seemed like ages, we ran off as fast as we could, because, if we had stayed we probably would have been weeping in reverence at his feet.

We rushed off talking about how our hearts had basically stopped, and burnt a little more time going to the beautiful Anderson Library. Finally we pooped out and went to wait in the Theater lobby, listening to goofy undergrads and talking about how glad we were to not be them. Of course, of course, Mr O'Quinn showed up again (it was where he was talking after all) and he walked back and forth in front of us, stretching his arms, listening to the theater kids say silly theater kid things. We got antsy and decided to go in, knowing we'd be listening to him for another hour.

The Q+A began. People asked polite theatery questions and then tried to fit polite theatery questions to questions about Lost, and then asked questions about Lost. I wanted to ask about how his youth in Newberry, Michigan had shaped his manly, solitary, survivalist character, but I knew that was a little specific, eh? It was pretty surreal- he spoke and moved and shoved his hands in his pockets pretty much like Locke --and I loved it. I think I squeezed Alex's hand too many times, but it was ok.

After all was said and done, I got in the rush of folks who got photographed with TOQ and had him sign my copy of the Wizard of Oz on the page with the Wizard's throne. I still think he's Dorothy since he's on the biggest journey of anyone. Here's our conversation--
Me: "Could you sign this?"
TOQ: "Hmm.. The Wizard of Oz? Interesting. Anything you want me to write?"
Me: "uh..uh..."
TOQ: "What's your name?"
Me: "Emilia? My roommate and I all the books on Lost?"
TOQ: "Hmm.."

THE END. I don't think it could have gone any better. I don't think I could be any happier.
I'm looking forward to future episodes during which I can say: I've met that guy! Yeah, that guy! Yeah, and it was AWESOME. Here's the evidence: aren't we cute?

The end. The best time ever.

And books, what books?