2010-06-21

Stephen King, Confusion, and the Great Unknown

During my recent 72 hour road trip to Boise, my fiance and I listened to Stephen King's latest novel 'Under the Dome' on CD. Lengthy, cumbersome at times, but good nonetheless. King manages to follow an entire town of individual characters without missing a beat. Then again, the novel is a thousand pages long.

'Under the Dome' touched on some of the concerns--somehow both pressing and sluggishly drifting away--of modern day US folks. Those who haven't yet blown up the TV and taken permanent residence underground in a bunker. Or run off to live in the mountains (I'm thinking of plan B right now).

I admired the skill King used in keeping up with so many lives, and looking back, the crafting of such a complex hive of individual stories served as the foundation of the novel's ultimate metaphor. Almost like two books in one, the depiction of the town's accelerated decline in response to the mysterious dome is just as important as the mystery itself. Still, the part that touched and disturbed me the most was the idea of facing things never faced before. No precedent, no recognition, no protocol, just confusion. The way confusion stagnates us, makes us stuck as if frozen in place. Makes us, almost by nature, drawn to any explanation no matter how foolish just to feel alive again, just to feel like somehow we have control over our tiny lives.

At the end of the book, King confronts the source of the mysterious dome that has descended upon his quaint town in Maine, and what he finds there is merely the equivalent to finally asking the right question. The 'source' of the phenomenon is something human beings can't perceive quite correctly, can't grasp, it's like quantum theory or particle physics. How does one confront, through the pursuit of science, or faith, or the most basic drive of survival, an entity that we are not able to see, to hear, to measure, or even describe? How does the individual accept knowledge, seen with human eyes, of a thing even when witnessed is incapable to grasp? How does society keep from imploding in the wake of such a discovery?

We are living in these times. I am living in these times. There is a consistency to the human experience that pulls us down and grounds us in patterns and saves us from destruction at our own hand every second of every day. Yet, there are still events that occur in this world that have never happened before. It may be compared to a past trend for the sake of comfort, or sanity, or guidance. But the bottom line is, although our society is cyclical, we are too small to witness some phenomena that exist as anything other than an absolute miracle.

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