Friday, 12 May 2017

Old And Wise III

Brian Aldiss, "...And The Stagnation Of The Heart" IN Harry Harrison, Ed., Four For The Future (London, 1974), pp. 33-44.

The first story (see here) had told us that its protagonists would live for another three thousand years and this story, a sequel, is set four hundred years later. Thus, neither of the main characters can die in it even though one of them is accidentally shot at.

The long-living married couple have developed cryptic speech and glances. In Pakistan, where population is still a problem, human immortality is a capital offence. There is a government reward for killing the immortal goats. I had thought that this story described an Indian or Pakistani child regarding the scene with apparent wisdom and compassion but was mistaken. That must be in another Aldiss story.

"'...'fairness' is not a built-in natural law. Man invented the concept of justice - it's one of his better ideas - but the rest of the universe, unfortunately, doesn't give a damn for it.'" (p. 40)

I think that that observation sums up Poul Anderson's works. Human beings - Hrolf Kraki, Gratillonius, Dominic Flandry - strugggle first to survive, then to build and defend a civilization with peace and justice, but entropy moves in the opposite direction.


Paul Shackley said...

Someone in our meditation group said that the universe loves him. Even if it lets him starve or burn to death?

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I disagree with what you friend said. The universe, as SUCH, does not give a damn about him or us. Only a Person like God, or other PEOPLE, can CARE.

And what you said about characters from Anderson's works that you listed who struggled to build up or uphold civilization and decent values reminded me the very remarks on that topic in Sandra Miesel's AGAINST TIME'S ARROW: THE HIGH CRUSADE OF POUL ANDERSON.


David Birr said...

Paul and Sean:
The quote about "natural law" also has very Heinleinian overtones. I'm thinking about the passage in *Starship Troopers* when the teacher (who's a military veteran) dismisses the "unalienable rights" line:
"a human being has *no natural rights of any nature*.
"What 'right' to life has a man who is drowning in the Pacific? The ocean will not hearken to his cries.... As to liberty, the heroes who signed the great document pledged themselves to *buy* liberty with their lives. Liberty is *never* unalienable; it must be redeemed regularly with the blood of patriots or it *always* vanishes. Of all the so-called natural human rights that have ever been invented, liberty is least likely to be cheap and is never free of cost. The third 'right'?—the 'pursuit of happiness'? It is indeed unalienable but it is not a right; it is simply a universal condition which tyrants cannot take away nor patriots restore."

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, DAVID!

Tyranny is a danger because ALL human beings belong to a fallen, flawed, imperfect race. The struggle to restrain the tendency of the state, any state, to step beyond its proper bounds, will never end.