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.

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