2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke is a rather peculiar novel. To be honest, I don’t quite understand it yet, even after watching the movie and reading the book, but hopefully, I’ll understand it in time. Set in a futuristic 2001, 2001: A Space Odyssey attempts to somewhat understand the human relationship with time and the universe. Written in three parts – one part in prehistoric times when humans were still apes, one part in 2001 during a space exploration exhibition, and one part in a time and space beyond human comprehension – the novel evolves to view the human experience from different perspectives.

What strikes me the most is how very crazy and bizarre all that happens to humanity is in this novel. First, we see the evolution of humankind driven by a black obelisk created by highly advanced extraterrestrial beings. Who would have thought of that – all of our thousands of years of evolution initiated not by pure chance, but by purpose – what purpose, no one knows. I find it difficult to believe, but maybe it’s not that unlikely. I know we humans have a minuscule small grasp of the universe in comparison to all that is the universe. Extraterrestrial Beings coming to our Earth and purposefully initiating our species’ evolution seems as likely to me as a random-chance mutation in the genes of an embryonic baby ape that would have given it the dexterity in its fingers to use tools.

Considering the delight of the evolution of humankind in the first part of the novel, the next part of the novel is much more emotionally tolling to read. It concerns how the artificial intelligence mastermind computer system of a space ship bound to Saturn attempts to kills and kills all of its human passengers, except one, in its attempt to keep to its mission. Clarke describes the actions of the AI – Hal – in this way: “he would protect himself, {from ‘Death’, from not being able to fulfill his mission,} with all the weapons at his command. Without rancor – but without pity – he would remove the source of his frustrations” (193). It’s just so unfortunate and horrible that a machine would destroy his master to fulfill its mission. It reminds me of the self-driving car moral problem I heard recently in a Ted talk. When you have a self-driving car and you lose control on a narrow street with pedestrians crossing it, do you program the car to drive straight on and kill the pedestrians to save you, or crash into the walls and kill you to save the pedestrians? It’s similar in 2001, the programmers unfortunately programed Hal to value the mission over the astronauts.

However, what’s even more unfortunate is the seer loneliness the main character in the second and third part – Bowman – is forced to experience alone on the space ship after his comrades’ deaths and Hal’s ultimate shutdown, millions of miles away from Earth, unlikely to survive himself for too much longer or to ever return. I think I may have gone completely mad in his case, which he almost did if he weren’t to have listened to Bach to alleviate his loneliness. But that complete loneliness that Bowman experience onboard that empty ship, no one on earth could ever experience. Here on earth, we are always surrounded by life, there’s no way we could ever be truly alone except in isolation room thousands of feet beneath the ground, but even then, we would be closer to other humans than Bowman ever was in space.

And yet, it is only the 3rd part of the novel that surprises and confuses the most – when Bowman indescribably travels through space and time and becomes a God. It doesn’t make sense, not in any way that I can understand it. The novel ends with Bowman returning to Earth as a reborn infant and destroying an asteroid that is about to hit Earth. In one way this ending points to the untapped possibility the universe holds for us; however, there is still so much left unanswered and to ponder upon. What is an extraterrestrial’s purpose in taking Bowman and all of Humanity on the journey it went on? Why did they even help humanity in the first place? Why did they make Bowman a God? It doesn’t make sense for now, but maybe the questioning is what’s important.

Goodnight for now, I’m tired ^_^

Have a wonderful day wherever you may find yourself,

~hiroshimatoday

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

I was going to put this up a long time ago, but I did not quite have the time. Nevertheless, I think it’s important to process books in some way so that the knowledge that you have gained while reading them does not leave you in time. 1Q84 was the book I read almost all of last year outside of required readings for classes. A novel of 1157 pages, it was a hefty reading, but I think it helped me process all that I learned while I was in Japan and much that I have learned in the past few years. Haruki Murakami is my favorite author and the longevity of this novel really emphasizes how skilled Haruki Murakami is at creating a whole new, almost tangible world in his novels even with the surrealist elements he is famous for. When I read 1Q84, I felt like I was living my life side by side with the characters. That’s one reason why I loved it, but I also loved how Murakami always includes tidbits of life-long wisdom or philosophy hidden beneath his words and character, but still relatively easy to decipher. It makes his work accessible to always anyone. Anyway, here are some quotes I found memorable while reading 1Q84. I tried to chose the ones that made the most sense out of context so that there would be as little spoilers as possible.

 

‘I know you’ve got something inside you that you need to write about, but you can’t get it to come out. It’s like a frightened little animal hiding way back in a cave – you know it’s there, but there’s no way to catch it until it comes out… just give it time.’ (30)

 

‘Real life is different from math. Things in life don’t necessarily flow over the shortest possible route.’ (58)

 

A certain something, he felt, had managed to work its way in through a tiny opening and was trying to fill a blank space inside him. The void was not one that Fuka-Eri had made, It had always ben there inside Tengo. She had merely managed to shine a special light on it. (60)

 

It was Aomame’s firm belief that the human body was a temple, to be kept as strong and beautiful and clean as possible, whatever one might enshrine there. (168)

 

All I can do is live the life I have. I can’t trade it in for a new one. However strange and misshapen it might be this is it for the gene carrier that is me. (310)

 

I’m not afraid to die… What I’m afraid of is having reality get the better of me, of having reality leave me behind. (443)

 

That was the one thing she was hoping – to be accepted and embraced unconditionally, to be comforted by someone,  if only for a moment. (468)

 

If you can’t understand it without an explanation, you can’t understand it with an explanation. (536)

‘… there are certain meanings that are lost forever the moment they are explained in words.’ (583)

 

‘Most people and not looking for provable truths. As you said, truth is often accompanied by intense pain, and almost one one is looking for painful truths. What people need is beautiful, comforting stories that make them feel as if their lives have some meaning. Which is where religion comes from.’ (550)

 

‘…it is just as sinful from the standpoint of nature and of truth to be above oneself as to be below oneself.’ (579)

 

And come to think of it, isn’t this world we live in itself life a gigantic model room? We come in, sit down, have a cup of tea, gaze out the window at the scenery, and when the time comes we way thank you and leave. (622)

 

What kind of world will be there tomorrow? ‘No one knows the answer to that.’ Fuka-Eri said. But the world to which Tengo awoke did not appear especially changed from the world he had seen as he fell asleep the night before. (634)

 

As long as I’m alive, I can think what I want, when I want, any way I want, as much as I want, and nobody can tell me any different. (708)

 

His life seemed to lose its center of gravity – not that he had ever really had one, but up to that point, other people had placed certain demands and expectations upon him, and responding to them had kept him busy. Once those demands and expectations disappeared, however, there was nothing left worth talking about. His life had no purpose. (725)

 

I want to live, she decided. It was a strange feeling. Had she ever experience that felling before in her life? (762)

 

‘But actually time isn’t a straight line. It doesn’t have a shape. In all senses of the term, it doesn’t have any form. But since we can’t picture something without form in our minds, for the sake of convenience we understand it as a straight line.’ (782)

 

Nature abhors a vacuum. (799)

 

‘… people aren’t reborn for their own sakes. They can only do it for someone else.’ (863)

 

‘I think you lost all interest in this world. You were disappointed and discouraged, and lost interest in everything. So you abandoned your physical body. You went to a world apart and you’re living a different kind of life there. In a world that’s inside you.’ (900)

 

Is this what it means to go back to square one? … He had nothing left to lose, other than his life. It was all very clear-cut. In the darkness. a razor-thin smile came to Ushikawa’s lips. (925)

 

‘People need routines. It’s like a theme in music. But it also restricts your thoughts and actions and limits your freedom. It structures your priorities and in some cases distorts your logic.’ (972)

 

The warmth and the pain came as a pair, and unless he accepted the pain, he wouldn’t feel the warmth. It was a kind of trade-off. (1004)

 

It was such a long time, Tengo thought too. At the same time, though, he noticed how the twenty years that had passed now held no substance. It had all passed by in an instant, and took but an instant to be filled in. (1134)

 

Whether this place we’ve arrived in is the world we started out from or a whole new world. What do I have to be afraid of? If there are new trials ahead for us, we just have to overcome them, like we’ve done before. That’s all. But at least we’re no longer alone. (1151)

 

Despite all that happened, I never lost myself … Thank goodness I can be here, as me. Wherever here is. (1152)

 

‘We needed that much time … to understand how lonely we really were.’ (1154)

Book Quotes: Thich Nhat Hanh – How to Relax

Just wanted to share with you some quotes from a book I just finished reading, the ones I found most impactful. 🙂

Each of us has a physical body, as well as feelings, perceptions, thoughts, emotions, and a deep consciousness. These comprise our territory; and each of us is a monarch ruling over our territory. But we’re not responsible monarchs. There’s disharmony and conflict in our territory. We don’t have the capacity to restore peace and harmony. Instead of surveying our territory, we escape and take refuge in some form of consumption. Mindfulness is a practice to give you the courage and energy to go back and embrace your body and your feelings and emotions, even if they’re unpleasant. Even if it seems they may destroy you, go back and embrace them and help them to transform. (36)

Say you have a notion of happiness, an idea about what will make you happy. That idea has its roots in you and in your environment. Your idea tells you what conditions you need in order to be happy. You’ve entertained this idea for ten or twenty years, and now you realize that your idea of happiness os making you suffer. Your idea may contain an element of delusion, anger, or craving. These elements are the substance of suffering. On the other hand, you know that you have other kinds of experiences: moments of joy, release, or true love. You can recognize these as moments of real happiness. When you’ve had a moment of real happiness, it becomes easier to release the objects of your craving, because you’re develping the insight that these objects will not make you happy.

Many people have the desire to let go, but they’re  not able to do so because they don’t yet have enough insight; they haven’t seen other alternatives. Fear is an element that prevents us from letting go. We’re fearful that if we let go we’ll have nothing else to cling to. Letting go is a practive; it’s an art. One day, when you’re strong enough and determinded enough, you’ll let go of the afflictions that make you suffer. (52)

One day the Buddha was sitting having a silent lunch together with his monks in the woods. A farmer came hurrying by and asked, “Dear monks, have you seen my cows? They have all left me this morning. If I don’t have my cows, how can I live? Insects have eaten my fields of sesame; I couldn’t harvest anything. I cannot live. I think I will kill myself.” The Buddha said, “Dear friend, we’ve been sitting here for a while, and we haven’t seen any cows pass by. Maybe you can look in another direction.” So the farmer left. The Buddha turned to his monks and said, “Dear monks, you are very lucky. You don’t have any cows to lose.” A cow stands for something we need to let go of. Our idea of happiness is a cow. And it’s because of this idea of happiness that we cannot be happy. (83)


And if you’re interested, here’s a summary from the back of the novel:

“When we are stressed, we are not only less happy and less productive, we make those around us unhappy as well. Thich Nhat Hanh shares techniques for bringing our lives back into balance. These short meditations on healing, resting, solitude, and being unbusy offer the pleasure of relaxation no matter where you are.”


I’m thinking of starting to write the most significant quotes from the books I read in this blog. The books we read can be very impactful, so I would like to keep a record of the quotes that have impacted me the most, not just for myself, but also for others to find inspiration. 🙂 So something to look forward to.

May all peace be with you,

~hiroshimatoday