The Black Keys

Let'sRock - Edited

Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney are known for releasing up-beat songs like “It’s Up to You Now” from Turn Blue (2014), “Lonely Boy” and “Gold on the Ceiling” from El Camino (2011), and “Everlasting Light”, “Tighten Up”, and “Howling for You” from Brothers (2010). Brothers was the album that introduced me to The Black Keys, and their hearty rhythms immediately impressed me. From their beginnings, the Black Keys have almost always supplied a tune that you can get behind.

It has been 17 years plus some change since The Black Keys released The Big Come Up. Tunes like “Busted”, “Run Me Down”, and “Heavy Soul” felt aged when they were only fresh out of the studio. Now that those songs have aged, so have The Black Keys.

The Black Keys have released 9 studio albums in 18 years, not to mention the duo’s many other projects. They followed The Big Come Up in 2002 with Thickfreakness in 2003 and Rubber Factory in 2004. Magic Potion was released in 2006, and in 2008 The Black Keys released Attack & Release to increasing notoriety. In 2010 they took on a new Label that they would keep for their next three albums. Their songs have been featured in several motion pictures, and they’ve rocked out at Lollapalooza, South by Southwest, Coachella, Glastonbury, and other music festivals.

Auerbach and Carney have been doing some new things (see PBS Newshour story here and Rolling Stone story here) with their time over the past 5 years, but 2019 occasioned the release of The Black Keys 9th studio album, Let’s Rock. The two stay true to the albums title, but it’s the lyrics of this album that seemed to take on a deeper vibe. Shine a Little Light feels existential while Every Little Thing seems to advocate for some moderation and self-love while warning about the consequences of one’s actions. Eagle Birds, Low/Hi, and Tell Me Lies express various familiar themes of human nature, and while Breaking Down and Under The Gun deal with more dreary and dire themes. Get Yourself Together and Sit Around And Miss You add to the list of love-themed songs on the album, but Walk Across The Water may be the song with the purest themes of romantic love.

Regardless of my interpretation of these lyrics and the artists’ intentions for them, they are also up for your interpretation. What seems extra special about Let’s Rock, is that you can enjoy musing on the catchy lyrics or infectious rhythms for a longer amounts of time before moving on to something else. Conclusion: The Black Keys are back with their best album yet.

Let'sRock

The Laws of Medicine

LawsOfMedicineCover

In The Laws of Medicine Siddhartha Mukherjee uses his skills in writing and storytelling to elaborate on medical realities learned from invaluable education and experience. Mukherjee sets out to describe principles of medical practice, pointing out that practicing medicine is about knowing the strengths and weaknesses of knowledge gleaned from patients, tests, experiments, and one’s self, then making the best decision with that information. Mukherjee much more eloquently elaborates on that point, emphasizing his three “laws” or principles of medicine.

  • Before Mukherjee describes the three principles of his book, he sets them up in a forward. He wonders if medical jargon is partly subconsciously employed to escape unknowns. He briefly discusses the modern history of medicine from the cure-all treatments of the 1800’s to a more careful observance of the Hippocratic oath in the 1900’s. Mukherjee pays homage to William Osler (commonly referred to as the “Father of Modern Medicine”), and Lewis Thomas’s The Youngest Science: Notes of a Medicine Watcher. Mukherjee is careful to differentiate the “laws” he is about to expose from more pure scientific laws such as those in Physics, Chemistry, and Biology.
  • Mukherjee explains that assessing a patient involves raising or lowering the probability of a diagnosis through interpreting test results in context. Mukherjee uses Thomas Bayes, an 18th century Philosopher and Clergyman, to illuminate the imperfect nature of tests.
  • Mukherjee continues his excellence use of relevant storytelling to explain how the unexplained abnormal results of tests or experiments are keys to better understanding. Hearkening back to history once more, Mukherjee uses Karl Popper’s The Logic of Scientific Discovery to point out that medical knowledge is scientific only when it carries a stipulation that can disprove it by new information or discovery.
  • Mukherjee adapts Heisenburg’s uncertainty principle to medicine to question how generalizable experiments are. He mentions that Paul de Kruif’s Microbe Hunters may have been apt in the early 20th century, but in the 21st century, bias is the prey of physicians. Mukherjee reflects on the role of physicians to hunt bias, including their own bias, while using imperfect information to help patients make better decisions about their health.

In The Laws of Medicine, Mukherjee impresses a sense of understanding upon the reader through taking complex issues and breaking them down into manageable pieces of information. He doesn’t need to explain the science behind his examples to give the reader a little understanding of the big picture. Furthermore, bleeding through the pages are rich examples of medical history that incite an appreciation for great minds that have come before Mukherjee’s imparting knowledge for him to build upon.

Another theme of Mukherjee’s book is the uncertainty within medicine. His comments on medical jargon and the imperfections of tests are humbling. Still a relatively young science, medicine continues to experience a boom in information and technology. These advancements may clarify some things while opening up new areas vast with questions.

Studies, companies, and patients all have opinions on medicine, and it seems correlations are often unexplained while being sold as causation to the public. Statistics, anatomy, physiology, epidemiology, pathology, advanced mathematics, history, etc. are each worthy of in-depth study. Combine all of those subjects while adding many others and you will begin to understand the challenges of medicine. It’s edifying to see an author acknowledging the difficulties of his field while simplifying the principles within it.

With all the avenues with which information and opinion is accessed in today’s world, it is difficult to focus on what matters most. Focus is what Mukherjee encourages with his three laws of medicine. Sifting through a myriad of information to find relevance seems an ever-increasing challenge among today’s youth, whether or not they are interested in practicing medicine. With the precision of a great writer, Mukherjee illuminates invaluable principles learned through a wealth of experience. These principles help thin the overwhelming fog of information to be processed, and if put to use are likely to improve the work of those practicing medicine.

Mukherjee’s The Laws of Medicine is a short and worthy read for anyone interested in the practice of medicine. At less than 100 pages, The Laws of Medicine seems to be Mukherjee’s most concise and easy read. Mukherjee’s other books, The Gene and The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, are both over 500 pages. The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction in 2011, and Mukherjee has also written for NEJM, Cell, Nature, and The New York Times.

 

Dunkirk

Dunkirk

Christopher Nolan is known for movies like Memento, The Prestige, The Dark Knight, Inception, and Interstellar, but while Dunkirk holds true to Nolan’s bold style unlike the aforementioned films it is based on actual historical events. The Battle of Dunkirk was a retreat for the Allied forces (the majority of which were British and French troops) who were being driven towards the English Channel by the German forces. The Allied forces were failing to defend France against Nazi Germany, and the only alternative to surrender was to die fighting or escape to the British mainland.

Nolan’s Dunkirk focuses on snapshots of the evacuation, making the evacuation Dunkirk feel more like one day rather than ten days. While Nolan delivers his typical high octane action through dogfights and bombings he also highlights the humanity of soldiers and citizens through displaying a range of heroism and cowardice, sometimes presenting itself in the same character. This contrast of courage and fear is fitting considering the heritage of Dunkirk remains one of victory and defeat.

Another thing to note about the film is that Nolan focuses almost entirely on the British. There is recognition of the French and at least one Belgian makes an appearance, but besides their war machines, the Germans are silent. Nolan is telling a story about the resilience of the British and Allied forces in what would be a loss crucial to eventual victory for the allied forces. The movie avoids dehumanizing German soldiers while remaining entirely uninterested in the antagonist that is Nazi Germany.

The film displays star actors like Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, and Mark Rylance, but also sports breakout performances from Fionn Whitehead and Harry Styles. The actors fit their roles well, and the quality costume design and cinematography creates a believable cinematic experience. The stubborn pride of the British shines through the film.

Dunkirk rightly highlights fear alongside courage, but the sweetness of this film is displayed in its summation. The audience is left with the words of Winston Churchill as the fate of the film’s characters is left hanging in the balance. That’s exactly where Britain and the whole of Europe was left in 1940. With the United States remaining uncommitted to the War and the Soviet Union maintaining its Non-aggression Pact, Britain, France, and the rebel forces of other European nations were abandoned, caged with the monstrosity of Nazi Germany.

The righteous rebellion of the Allied forces in the face of failure and defeat lights a fire of emotion and ignites endurance and hope within the human spirit. Though no war is black and white in its justifications and no person is entirely pure, World War II may be the best example of a just war. The struggles of the Allied forces at Dunkirk are amazing not only for the overwhelming obstacles faced, collective heroism displayed, and divine grace received but also for the moral argument fueling the British zeitgeist to “never surrender”.

Mud

Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Sam Shepard, Michael Shannon, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Ray Mckinnon, and Sarah Paulson take up most of the screen time in Mud. Written and directed by Jeff Nichols who also wrote and directed Loving, Mud is a well-paced and well-acted film that steadily builds to its climax. Mud‘s characters are so well-developed that supporting actors feel more intimately understood, and the film seems to use its characters full potential.

McConaughey’s performance is raw and authentic. His slow, rumbling voice and southern accent match his character’s unkempt appearance, and McConaughey appears to play a difficult role with ease. In 2012 McConaughey was no newcomer to Hollywood as he has had been headlining blockbuster films since the 1990’s. But, blockbuster films are typically bypassed by the Academy Awards.

Mud was overlooked at the 2013 Academy Awards, but McConaughey would not be overlooked in 2014 when he won Best Actor in a Leading Role for Dallas Buyer’s Club. Mud seemed to set off a new chapter in McConaughey’s career as the actor seemed to gravitate towards more complicated character roles like Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyer’s Club, Mark Hanna in Wolf of Wall Street, and Rust Cohle in the True Detective series. In addition, Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland give convincing performances in Mud, and the film uses its dialogue efficiently.

Besides its main theme of love, Mud explores life in rural Arkansas and vigilante justice. The movie captures beautiful shots of river life while subtlety questioning the righteousness of its characters. The crime of murder is juxtaposed with a case domestic violence. The audience is treated to visuals of Arkansas country and rural river culture while grappling with their attitudes toward the films protagonists.

Mud seems to do its best work exploring romantic love across a spectrum of ages and situations. Young teenagers, married parents, adult singles, and an old widower all share their stories of love. Wisdom and foolishness mingle as the lines between right and wrong decisions seem to blur. Love itself is called into question.

Humans are social animals with the ability to shower or shatter one another with love. Reopening the wounds of a broken heart may develop deep scars that suppress the pulse of romantic feelings, but acts of kindness and words of encouragement can heal the naive hopes and vulnerable boldness of persistent affection. Mud gives the audience a good glimpse of the complexities of life and love.

True concern for another’s well-being more than one’s own often means being willing to stay or leave – to hold tight or to let go. That means that true endearment frequently involves sacrificing one’s own desires. It also means that long-term romantic relationships can be often untidy and downright difficult. In a selfish world it may be futile to struggle for lasting love, but Mud advocates for endurance in the effort.

On Inequality

OnInequalityCover

On Inequality is another short read from Philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt. Frankfurt immediately sets out to critique economic egalitarianism. He points out that the haves are not as much of a concern as the have-not’s (i.e. addressing the problems of society’s poorest is more of a concern than taking away from society’s richest), but he points out that the excesses of society’s richest are distasteful. Frankfurt points out that the inequality of political power that sometimes accompanies extravagant wealth is more of a concern than the wealth itself. Frankfurt advocates for the “doctrine of sufficiency”, emphasizing that although more economic and political equality may have a positive impact in many ways, the notion of societal equality as a fundamentally right moral principle is incorrect.

Frankfurt illuminates the dangers of comparison when he deals a deadly blow to the idea that it is right and fair for everyone to possess equal amounts of materials and goods. As an individual with differing ambitions, obligations, and requirements, it is silly think that one person’s fulfillment comes through having the same amount of wealth as the next person. All of this Frankfurt establishes within the first 12 pages.

Frankfurt then goes on to elaborate on some of the defenses of equality as a fundamentally right moral principle. He makes an argument about distribution of goods and utility thresholds when resources are scarce. His argument compellingly emphasizes that there are situations in which inequality is necessary for survival (i.e. the greatest benefit for the greatest number of people may not always result from equal distribution of goods if there are not enough goods for everyone to subsist on).

Resources are often not globally scarce, even for the large population that this planet supports, but resources are often scarce locally. In these situations populations must make decisions about the distribution of resources, and prioritizing the distribution of resources towards that which will provide the most efficient output seems to be common sense. With the technology and communication that modern society possesses, it is the hope that such local catastrophes may be adverted more and more, but Frankfurt’s point holds true – prioritizing equality in situations of scarcity is unlikely to produce the most utilitarian beneficence.

Besides the practical utility of goods, Frankfurt emphasizes that equality is not a fundamentally right moral principle in part because inequality does not prevent a person from being contented with his or her life (i.e. contentment is not dependent on having as much as the next person). This point again acknowledges the individuality of the person. Individuals do not want or desire the same things, but for some reason people often advocate for attainment of similar or equal resources thinking that will lead to fulfillment in life. It’s refreshing to realize that one person does not need the same things as the next person, and that one person may be significantly more contented having less than a discontented but wealthy neighbor.

Frankfurt does not appear to be defending price gauging, lobbying, or other advantageous uses of resource or wealth distribution. Frankfurt states that rights, respect, consideration, and concern should be afforded to every person. On Inequality may be disturbing to some who misinterpret what Frankfurt is saying, but the book is ultimately a rational examination of the idea that economic equality is intrinsically the moral high ground.

On Inequality, like other small books that Frankfurt has written, provides a critical outlook on a subject that deserves more examination. Frankfurt provides an encouragingly detailed reflection on the concept of equal distribution of resources. His words are not idly written, chosen out of a reflexive feeling of defensiveness, or issued based on an immediate emotional response. Rather, Frankfurt provides a non-polarized assessment of a subject that receives far too many sound-bite responses. That is essentially what make Frankfurt’s books enjoyable to read.

 

Silence

Directed by Martin Scorsese and staring Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, and Liam Neeson, Silence is a film about 17th century Jesuit Priests seeking to spread their faith in Japan. The film depicts their persecution and struggles as the Japanese hierarchy sought to uproot Christianity in Japan.

Japan’s resistance to foreign influence was strong, and Christianity was no exception. The story of Silence centers around two Priests who set out to find one of their mentors after his letters from Japan cease and rumor is heard of his denial of Christianity. The Priests seek to spread their faith and find their lost mentor while hiding from Japanese authorities. A story of loyalty and betrayal, belief and unbelief, and faithfulness and unfaithfulness follows.

Silence is a deep and heavy film to watch. It explores cultural conflict, compares and contrasts faiths, poses deep theological and philosophical questions, and challenges the definition of truth. Is truth universal, international, national, cultural, or personal? Is truth dependent upon the circumstances that surround the truth seeker? Is it permissible for a person to repeatedly publicly deny his or her faith while privately believing that faith to be right and true?

Silence is a great precursor to the philosophical question – Is it right or permissible to lie in defense of self or others? Lying for protection from injustice and oppression is often considered an okay if not right thing to do. Modern Biblical theologians might argue the forgivable nature of denying one’s faith, but modern theologians did not have to be faced with the challenges of these 17th century Jesuit Priests.

Silence also has a lot to say about belief in a higher power in general. As the title suggests, God does not rise to the defense of the people being oppressed by the Japanese rulers. There are rare suggestions of God’s presence, but the Priests mostly pray and suffer in silence. This leads to questioning the existence of God along with the reasoning behind unwavering profession of faith.

Though much can be said about the disturbing behavior and reasoning of the persecutors, Silence is about the persecuted. Did the people these priests were ministering to even understand what the priests were endeavoring to teach them? Were the priests accurately communicating and the people adequately interpreting the priests’ conception of God? Were the people dying for God or for paradise? If the priests beliefs were true but the peoples’ faith was flawed, were the priests simply hastening these peoples’ path to hell?

Silence is about the thin line between faithfulness and apostasy, and what it takes to reach and cross that line. Why should these Priests have died for a silent God? What is the promise of a paradise never physically experienced when compared to the tangible stuff of life and the relief of pain? If God exists, Who is God, and is God worth our lives? If a person decides God is not worth her or his life, is God merciful enough to accept that person back?

Those may be some of the questions that Silence leaves with its audience, and especially for people of faith, those may be some important questions to consider.

On Truth

OnTruth

On Truth, written by Harry G. Frankfurt who was a professor of Philosophy at Princeton University, is a book defending and elaborating on the concept of truth. The first thing Frankfurt does is dispose of the fallacy that truth does not exist as disproving  itself (i.e. saying truth does not exist would be an absolute truth). The second thing Frankfurt does is emphasize that he is not writing about what is true and what is not true, but about the vital concept of truth itself.

Frankfurt then examines the importance of truth within modern society and some of the ideologies surrounding the idea of truth. Frankfurt indirectly invites the reader to consider if a person’s idea of truth is determined by her or his experiences and environment. The author emphasizes the importance of truth in regards to being honest about one’s self and in regards to a healthily functioning society. He discusses Baruch Spinoza’s idea that people who love themselves and their lives tend to love truth because of the role truth plays in life.

In the second half of “On Truth”, Frankfurt seems to continue his consequentialist approach to truth as he describes the importance of a person accepting reality for what it is regardless of whether or not she or he agrees with it. Though he continues to elaborate on the necessity of truth in living a fulfilled life, Frankfurt’s dialogue illuminates some fundamental questions. Is it better to utilize truth for one’s own gain, for the gain of a group, or for the gain of society as a whole? Is it better to exercise delayed gratification or immediate gratification?

For example:

The issue of the growing national debt of the United States government is discussed with every election cycle, and this topic must influence decision making on the part of U.S. citizens. Is it better to allow the debt to continue increasing to bolster the U.S. economy now or should the U.S. government make severe budget cuts now to avoid long-term consequences? One could argue that both approaches can be motivated by a consequentialist perspective (i.e. one seeks to benefit people in the present and the other seeks to benefit people in the future), but which approach provides the most benefit for the greatest number of people?

When considering a consequentialist approach an important distinction must be made between what benefits the individual (or the individual’s group) and between what benefits the greatest number of people in society. Though these discussions will likely make decisions much more complicated, they can serve to make decisions more intentional in regards to the beneficence of results. We tend to live in a world that is not black and white in nature but is instead a reality of many shades of gray. Conflicting information and opinion calls for deliberate reasoning based on evidence-based principles and truth. But, humanity often succumbs to impulsive, black and white decision-making based on preset preferences and pre-selected sources of information.

Frankfurt’s realization of the innate variation and grayness of life is refreshing. At one point Frankfurt implies that a lie may have consequential utility in one situation while being a burden to society in another situation.

For example:

Comedians lie frequently about their experiences to create a more humorous punch line. This is one example of how manipulating the reality of a situation may be of benefit to a great number of people. Often jokes are dependent upon realizing the untrue nature of a statement, and such sarcasm may serve to mock a falsity and admire a truth.

If the example of comedians seems like a weak defense of the utility of a lie, the genocidal examples of a German lying to the Gestapo about the location of Jews or of a Rwandan lying about her or his ethnicity to avoid being a victim of mass slaughter should serve as a more potent example. Frankfurt makes his points effectively without use of such examples, and he goes on to illuminate why lies can be so uncomfortable, even when they have some consequential utility.

Lies keep the hearer from some reality. The full truth of a situation is shrouded. That aspect of a lie is always negative, regardless of the lie’s consequential utility. The nature of a lie is entertaining a thought or an idea that is false, and this serves to explain why lies should be naturally less popular than truths (i.e. the nature of reality causes lies to be self-defeating).

“On Truth” is a short, reflective read that provides a good defense of the overall utility and vital nature of absolute truth while acknowledging the existence of various situations in which complete, raw honesty about truth is unknown, undesirable, or not of the most immediate beneficence. Truth has a self-evident nature which always makes falsity somewhat undesirable even if an untruth is useful. Frankfurt’s approach entertains the complex nature of truth while upholding truth’s integrity, and when discussing and deliberating what is likely the most important concept in life, such a balanced and rational approach is a good thing.

 

 

 

 

The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly

TheRealDoctorWillSeeYouShortly

The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly by Matt McCarthy is a book about the author’s first year as a resident after graduating from Harvard Medical School. The book is a raw story about the stressful ups and downs of life as a medical resident. Not all residents may feel the same kind of stress or sense the same kind of life-altering experiences that Doctor McCarthy reflects on in his book, but the experiences of residents must have a large impact on the courses of their futures as physicians. McCarthy’s book demonstrates how his experiences have impacted his career, and provides a valuable resource for students aspiring to a career in medicine.

The book opens with McCarthy exiting the world of academia for the work of residency. He travels from the cardiac care unit to a local outpatient clinic to the infectious disease service to the general medicine floor to intensive care unit during his residency at Columbia University Medical Center. He exchanges 2nd year resident mentors for which he has a constantly changing “scut” list of services to provide for patient care. He experiences triumphs and tragedies as he endeavors to survive his first year of residency.

McCarthy has authored other books, and his writing is not bland or above the level of the reader. He shares mnemonics like “ABC”, “VINDICATE”, “AEIOU”, and “NAVEL” to illustrate the rigors of remembering keys to good patient care, but he never expects the reader to take an interest in the academics of medicine. McCarthy writes for the sake of the story. He describes the emotions of patients and their caregivers, he illustrates the harsh physical realities of diseases and medical procedures, and he reflects on the good and bad things about life as a resident.

McCarthy also demonstrates a refreshing sense of humor and humanity. He makes corny jokes, illustrates some humorous situations that often arise in healthcare, and talks about the importance of periodically cutting loose from the serious nature of medical care. Healthcare professions can be a frustrating, and McCarthy’s humor provides welcome relief for the doctor and the reader.

The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly is a good read, especially if one is interested in working in the medical field. Working as a Medial Doctor is a very well-respected job for many reasons. The hard work and discipline that it takes to graduate from Medical School demonstrates a willingness to sacrifice time, energy, and wealth to achieve an admirable goal, and more importantly, providing quality patient care demonstrates a dedication to protecting the lives of others. As more readers delve into the pages of Dr. McCarthy’s telling first year, perhaps their confidence to sacrifice time, energy, and wealth for the sake of those who lack access to quality healthcare will grow as well. After all, it is not easy, becoming a doctor, but for the sake of others, it’s definitely worth it.

1984

1984Orwell

1984, written by George Orwell, was published soon after World War II and imagines a dystopian future in which “Big Brother” a figure-head of a totalitarian government controls the piece of the world that the main character, Winston Smith, lives in. The world is divided up into three divisions Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia with something like large swaths of populated no man’s land in between. Much of the book is spent describing the concepts and strategies of the totalitarian government as well as the details of the people and places in this dystopian world.

The Power of Fear & Pain:

  • The listener is provided an internal view into the protagonist mostly, so assumptions must be made about the internal feelings of the other characters. However, one thing immediately recognizable in this audiobook is the fear present in the people controlled by their government. Fear seems to prey on the instincts of the characters by encouraging them to do whatever they can to survive. Citizens of Oceania seem jovial when traitors are caught and deposed through jail and/or death, but it’s hard to believe that the citizens can truly feel jovial and secure in such a controlled environment. Much like the main character, Winston, other citizens of Oceania may be internally conflicted about their government. But, unlike Winston, many citizens seek to improve their loyalty to “Big Brother” through enthusiastically encouraging the capture and conviction of comrades found to be disloyal to the totalitarian party.

The Power of Words:

  • The citizens are always being watched through “telescreens” or something like a TV set that both records and displays visual and audible information. Whereas these “telescreens” likely seemed improbable in the 1950’s, they now seem feasible. Besides the “telescreens” there’s the “Thought Police” who monitor any signs (e.g. speech, body language, facial expression, etc.) of disloyalty to the party. There’s also “News Speak” or the effort by the government-controlled media to limit the amount of words used in Oceania’s language. The concept of “Newspeak” seems to emphasize the importance of education and language in expressing human individuality and promoting intellectual growth and freedom. In his book, Orwell seems to be emphasizing that words are powerful, and a society that diminishes the power of words diminishes the power of its people.

The Essence of Freedom:

  • The underlying tone of 1984 seems to be related to the destruction of freedom. As the book progresses it becomes clear that freedom exists solely in the mind, in the realm of human choices. One may be physically overpowered, locked up, or chained, but there is still the freedom of thought and choice. Even if the sum of a person’s thoughts and decisions are simply the totality of his or her genetics and environment, the ability to choose seems to be what makes people, at least in part, free. In order for one person or a small group to rule a multitude, there must be a way to control people’s thoughts and choices.

Misunderstanding Professed Beliefs &/or Their Implications:

  • In 1984, the ruling minority seems to be largely successful, and most citizens seem to either embrace the regime’s propaganda or take the viewpoint that ignorance is bliss. One character makes an effort to give the appearance of “orthodoxy” or conformation to the regime’s ideology without truly understanding the implications and true nature of the ideology. This character’s ignorant dedication to rules and beliefs reflects an attitude that some people may embrace in life. It may at times be easier to embrace beliefs that have been inherited from family or conform to societal expectations and standards without really examining the merit or meaning of those beliefs.

The Importance of Authenticity:

  • While some people may struggle to truly comprehend or even accurately live out their beliefs due to a lack of examination, others like Winston in 1984 may be afraid to reveal who they really are. While Winston hides his true beliefs out of a fear of imprisonment and death, individuals in modern society may hide who they really are out of a fear of disapproval or relational rejection. Failure to meet societal expectations can prevent people from being authentic. As Winston confesses both the positive and negative aspects of his inner self, he shows us a valuable part of his humanity. In a society that expects perfection, or at least the ruling party’s definition of it, Winston comes to grips with his imperfections.
  • This serves as a lesson to individuals of modern society. The individual must determine for herself what is right and wrong and judge herself by that standard. The governments of the nations in which that individual chooses to reside will hold that individual to a collective standard of justice along with the rest of the people in those nations. That individual will likely judge herself imperfect by both the standards of those societies as well as her own standards. However, that realization aids in understanding the necessary responsibilities and privileged liberties of living in a mutually beneficial community. Realizing one’s imperfections while taking responsibility for one’s actions is an essential part of what it means to be human.

The Existence of Absolute Truth:

  • Late in the book Winston goes into a self-reflective monologue about the insecurities of truth. He wonders if two plus two really equals four. He asks what truth really is if it exists in our minds and our minds are only a perception of our surroundings. Winston turns to the fundamental laws of the world around him such as the law of gravity to help reinforce his belief that truth exists outside of his own mind. But, his questioning of the very existence of truth is apt. Ultimately, one may ask if even the existence of truth is a belief that requires faith?

1984 may be an uncomfortable book to read or listen to at times, but Orwell covers some important concepts. The questions and challenges that arise from reading a book like 1984 are more beneficial than the story and its characters. The details of this book need not be remembered as long as the general ideas and questions relating to choice, community, and truth are internalized. Are people really free to choose? What is the individual’s and government’s role in a community? Is there such a thing as absolute truth? Those are some of the questions that seem to get to the main points of 1984.