Monday, September 22, 2014


So I'm consuming fiction right now at a remarkable rate. I've never, ever read this much fiction. At the center of it all is my recent consumption of THE VALIS TRILOGY, which I enjoyed. I've long wanted to read Phillip K Dick's stuff and I'm glad I'm finally filling that gap in my nerd credentials. So far, Dick has shown himself to be a fantastic writer, who approaches things in a way I've never quite encountered anywhere else before. His writing STYLE is what I'm talking about here. And it is hard to put your finger on. It is the way he describes what is going on in someone's head. It really is like no one else.

I just finished one of his most critically-acclaimed books FLOW MY TEARS, THE POLICEMAN SAID. In it, a man named Jason lives in a dystopian future, which is dominated by a police state. He is genetically engineered to be superior physically and mentally, and lives as one of the world's biggest pop stars. Through a mysterious turn of fate, which is fully explained later in the novel, Jason finds that he suddenly doesn't exist. No one remembers him, and there is no record of him in any computer file. Since the police state requires special ID's, this puts him in danger of winding up in a forced labor camp. He now has to hide from the police, while finding some way to figure out what happened to him and/or build a new life.

Jason is completely self-important and self-absorbed from the very beginning of the book. He sees himself and his girlfriend (also a genetically engineered pop star) as superior to everyone else in the world. Once he loses his identity, he has to rely on these 'lesser beings', many of whom have problems of their own. Jason's genetic enhancements include great looks and increased charisma, which he uses to try to manipulate women for his own ends.

The book is heavily steeped in theological reflection. Phillip K Dick later realized that much of the book was filled with scenes seemingly taken from the Book of Acts, which he claimed he never read before. He eventually came to believe that this book has literally been sent to him from God, and included a profound religious significance. The book itself includes meditations on God (there are several religious people in the book), the nature of reality, and the substance of human relationships (particularly mutuality versus predation).

In the end, the book winds up as a kind of dystopian ITS A WONDERFUL LIFE. Jason is so focused on survival when everything goes south, that it is all he can think about. In fact, it is all you as a reader can think about to. But in the end, the true meaning of the book is revealed and illuminated. Jason's life, for all its seeming superiority and importance, ends up making very little impact in the world. The antagonist, a police general who persecutes Jason, also thinks of himself as supremely important and towers over the world around him as some giant mastermind or demi-god. But in the end, none of these men really matter. Their efforts and creations do not last. It is one of those lowly women, one of the people Jason tries to manipulate, who creates something that endures. Simplicity and lowliness contain the seeds of genuine meaning and immortality, whereas everything else is consigned to emptiness.

The one genuinely decent person in the film, is the one who truly makes something that matters, that endures. A greater reflection upon the Gospel I can scarcely imagine. There is a reason why Dick came to see this book as divine in origin.

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