“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”
-Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
I read Huxley’s masterpiece, A Brave New World, for the first time a few months ago. Though prediction is always a dubious affair, I think that I can say with reasonable certainty that it will stand the test of time, more so than it already has. Many of you will have read this book, I’m sure, some of you will have not, but I think that the topics raised in the novel are valuable for discussion either way. This was a book that made me think, and before I get into some of what it made me think about, let me just say that I recommend you read it, if you have not already.
Ever since Aristotle, and perhaps (and probably) farther back, a prevailing sentiment among mankind has been that happiness is the goal of life. Happiness is the greatest good; it is the thing we should strive after. Man, however, oftentimes says or believes things that don’t make a terrible lot of sense. In Brave New World, I see Aldous Huxley looking at this worldview and saying, “Very well, let us put it to the test.”
Huxley’s world is one in which just about everyone is happy, in some sense of the word. They have wealth, youth, instant gratification of all of their desires, good health, and instant access to drugs with no adverse physical side effects whenever they need some chemical euphoria. The happiness in this world comes at a cost, of course, needing to be stringently controlled, so humans are all formed in the lab, some being designated as Alphas, others Betas, and so on and so forth. The lower ranked human embryos are shaken and given alcohol in vitro so that they develop birth defects. From the youngest possible age, conditioning is used to tell people that they are happy, that their society is good, etc.
Huxley’s world of ubiquitous happiness is a nightmare. In fact, it’s an asylum, for everyone who participates in it has substituted reality for a lie, and they go about in one great delusion every day. Happiness, we realize, can be faked. It can be artificial, it can be empty. A society that pursues happiness above all else is horrific abomination, and Huxley shows this masterfully.
It is my belief that our society is becoming increasingly similar to Huxley’s own. I feel like everyone should read his book because of how pertinent it is, and yet I feel that many will not understand what he was trying to say; our mindsets having already warped to the particular lie he tries to expose. In our society we value instant gratification, we value appearance over substance, the increasing march of the sexual revolution has exchanged slow, beautiful love for quick, selfish lust, and on and on.
Happiness is great, but what about honor? What about courage? What about love? And when I say love, I don’t simply mean that your eyes met hers across a room and you have butterflies in your belly, though this can be a wonderful thing. I mean love that puts another’s needs before his own. I mean love that sacrifices, that allows itself to be ignored so that another can be lifted up. What about goodness, in total? Is not goodness a better goal than happiness?
You see, the problem with seeking happiness first is that it can be most easily found in some dark places. If you chuck your morals, your God-given sense of decency, and any other inconvenient sort of ethics or empathy- happiness is quite easy. An alcoholic is happy when drowning in his drink, but this is not good. Sick, twisted people do criminal acts that make them happy, but I will not endorse their pursuits. “Whatever makes you happy,” is a phrase of selfish resignation, many times, not one of love.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this, dear reader. Please comment below on what you think the goal of life is: is it happiness, or is it something else entirely?
“…most men and women will grow up to love their servitude and will never dream of revolution.”
– Aldous Huxley, Brave New World