Sunday, April 8, 2007

Cover of the Day -- Easter Edition

Dick writes in the Exegesis:
"The victory of Christ (as Lord of the Cosmos) over astral (planetary) determinism is better expressed, for us today, by saying, It is the coming into being of a thinking cosmos replacing a merely deterministic, casual, unthinking, mechanism of fate or blind chance."

Later in life Dick imagined a cosmological battle between the organized forces of good and evil taking place all around him, but in his earlier work the struggle between empathy and apathy is purely an internal one. Nowhere is this better expressed than at the end of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? when Rick Deckard, exhausted and haunted by a marathon of destroying androids, finally sees beyond himself, beyond the blinding searchlights of his own desire and recognizes that all life struggles for survival and self-esteem the same way he does.

Iran, Deckard's wife, asks, "Do you want to use the mood organ? To feel better? You have always gotten a lot out of it, more than I ever have."
"I'll be okay," he shook his head trying to clear it, still bewildered."The spider Mercer gave the chickenhead, Isidore; it was probably artificial too. But it doesn't matter. The electric things have their lives, too. Paltry as those are."

All of Dick's successful characters (the ones who are in any way satisfied at the end of his stories) at some point in the action slip off the brittle carapace of their egotism and embrace the world around them. It is the idios kosmos (the personal world) that surrenders to the koinos kosmos (shared world) in these characters as they move from a selfish being concerned only for itself into an empathetic being that sees beyond its own pleasure and pain.

At the end of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Deckard is able to sleep without the mood organ, to live in the world unassisted by technology and finally to be completely human as a result of his surrender to something larger than himself. I've always been struck by how relevant some of the final lines of T.S. Eliot's landmark poem "The Waste Land" are to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?:
"Datta: What have we given
My friend, blood shaking my heart
The awful daring of a moment's surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract
By this, and this only, we have existed
Which is not to be found in our obituaries
Or in memories draped by the beneficent spider"
(lines 402-408)

Happy Easter!

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