Letter to Aldous Huxley

September 18, 2008
By Ellie Durling PLATINUM, Chevy Chase, Maryland
Ellie Durling PLATINUM, Chevy Chase, Maryland
28 articles 0 photos 3 comments

Dear Mr. Huxley,

I write this letter because I desperately wanted to tell you how much your novel, A Brave New World, has affected me. I had never really appreciated what I do now, that sometimes living a ridiculously easy life, like the civilized of Brave New World may not be as perfect as one might believe.

I, like the rest of humanity, spend a larger amount of time then I would like to admit to thinking about things I want. It isn't my fault. This desperate feeling of desire—whether materialistic or romantic, is a product of man's evolution; our prehistoric ancestors didn't make wild advancements or successfully copulate by sitting around contemplating how positively perfect their lives already were. A base part of nearly every sentient being is desire. Anybody who denies their own desire is lying to themselves. I am a victim to this desire as much as anybody else. I can list dozens of things I would love to have or do in order to make my life ‘better'—and I lead an exceedingly privileged life. I want things—to have consistently clear skin, be good at sports, to have a certain dress or iPod, to have a boyfriend. Most would agree that these desires are petty, and I agree with them, but before reading your book, Brave New World, I never thought about how these desires, and not having everything handed to me on a silver platter, really do make life worth it.

I read Brave New World this past summer. I had recently read George Orwell's 1984, and having enjoyed it, was clamoring for more dystopian premonitions of our society's future failings. I picked up Brave New World, and was instantly captivated. As anybody who has read Orwell's chilling 1984 knows, Brave New World appears to be far less horrifying. Sure, this society lives in a drug enhanced stupor, with no real love, no literature, in a society where fervent promiscuity is celebrated and citizens are conditioned not to feel any strong emotion, from infatuation to hatred, but at least they are not prosecuted for their sexual desire, or in a state of constant war. On the surface, in fact, Brave New World appears to be a utopia—who wouldn't want to live in a world where pleasure isn't a rarity, it's a lifestyle? But anybody who believes this obviously haven't seen the other side, a constantly pleasant life. How can pleasure really be appreciated without pain to compare it to? If we truly got whatever our heart desired, with no strings attached, no effort—beauty, coordination, a perfect love life, any material object, would life mean anything?

On page 236, the prime minister of the novel's society decrees, “There isn't any reason for a civilized man to bear anything that's seriously unpleasant.” Herein lies the true meaning of a life of all pleasantries. It is lukewarm. Sure, it seems nice at first, but

so many of life's joys come with trials. Education can be an exhausting and sometimes dull path, but it is all for that true joy, the holy grail of knowledge, and the satisfaction of a job well-done. Pregnancy, child-birth, and child-rearing is an grueling, often painful experience, but is there a single mother in the history of humanity who, having experienced it, would go back and not do it over? If we did not fear death, if we weren't sad at the loss of a human being, would we ever really appreciate the true beauty that is life? If we lived a truly “pleasant life” we could never be able to allow ourselves any true feeling. We could never love another person. Love is too messy, too complicated, and sometimes, too painful, for a “pleasant” society to deal with. But what is a life without love?
I am not endorsing masochism, and, indeed, at the end of Brave New World, John the Savage's irrefutable self-flagellation and self-denial is just as bad as the civilized society's culture of constant gratification. We can no more appreciate a life of constant pain than we can one of constant pleasure. We, instead, must strike a balance, a balance between promiscuity and chastity, pleasure and pain, between celebration of life and fear of death.
If you had asked me before reading Brave New World whether a life of constant pleasure is just as horrifying as one of constant pain, I would have said no. I wouldn't now. I'd say they are equals, and any society of too much of either is a great and terrible loss. While a culture of pain and self-denial is horrifying, as anybody would agree, one of constant pleasure is, if one looks deeper, just as horrifying. True, undeniable love and passion can be painful, but it is also one of the most pleasurable parts of the human experience. Having and being part of a family, whether biological or not, is never easy, and is a path fraught with clashes of opinion and feeling, but what else can bring a person a such a sense of community and love, although platonic? Lust—especially the lust of Brave New World, is never everything. There is so much more to be said of platonic love, friendship, or true love. In a world of constant pleasure as in Brave New World, lust is far more crucial—as it reaps far quicker rewards. Lust brings instant gratification, and platonic love, true, romantic love doesn't, but does that make lust more enjoyable?
I have never been what anybody would call stoic, and it is unlikely that I will stop complaining about homework, or my lack of coordination. But this book has made me realize what I had not before, and the result is that I may complain a little less, and learn to appreciate the true, although subtle beauty in hard work, pain, or loss. The true beauty in longing. Thank you, Mr. Huxley, for opening my eyes to life's most uncelebrated joy—desire.

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