Monday, June 8, 2009

This Simian World

“We have no sure vision. Hopes, guesses, beliefs – that is all.”
- Clarence Day, This Simian World (1920)

Clarence Day’s book This Simian World is one of our favorite books. It was published in 1920 and its author has long since passed from the scene. It is wonderfully written, clever and full of clear-headed insight into the nature of human societies. But what interests us most is that the book is also full of absurd observations.

The basic premise is that we are very much like our simian cousins. We share their curiosity and their love of chatter. “We carry our hairy past with us wherever we go,” Day writes, “running about, busy and active, marooned on this star, always violently struggling, yet with no clearly seen goal before us.”

Looking at humanity through a simian lens is a wonderful device. It instantly casts humanity in a more humble, absurd light. We see it more for what it is in its great futile struggle for meaning.

This lack of a purpose, though, does not at all discourage Day. In true absurd fashion, Day writes:

“It is possible that our race may be an accident, in a meaningless universe, living its brief life uncared-for, on this dark, cooling star: but even so— and all the more— what marvelous creatures we are! A universe capable of giving birth to many such accidents is – blind or not – a good world to live in, a promising universe.”

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