“1984” – by George Orwell

– How could you communicate with the future? It was of its nature impossible. Either the future would resemble the present, in which case it would not listen to him: or it would be different from it, and his predicament would be meaningless. –

I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised at how captivating this old classic was. I started reading it last year actually and didn’t finish it until a couple days ago. I wouldn’t call it an overly exciting tale, but it is deeply interesting, and appealed directly to my intellect, which is something I very much admire in books but you don’t see much in novels written today. This book had that classic storytelling vybe, while still bringing to the table a truly original story that was disturbingly accurate in some ways to the progression of modern life. The predictions haven’t played out exactly as Orwell may have guessed, but you can definitely see the similarities.

I was most of the way through the book last year, before my other laptop, SAM (RIP) died and I had to replace all of my bookmarks on the new one (because I was reading the book online). Then I just sort of forgot about it until this month, when was bored enough to look through all my bookmarks to find something to do.

The final few chapters completely enthralled me. The intelligence portrayed in Orwell’s writing during Winston’s most difficult times is glaringly obvious, and my respect for the author skyrocketed. Just due to those few chapters, I want to read more of Orwell’s work. I don’t usually buy a book unless it genuinely impressed me in some way, but I think I might buy this one.

– He was a lonely ghost uttering a truth that nobody would ever hear. But so long as he uttered it, in some obscure way the continuity was not broken. –

A lot of these quotes I think of from a Christian perspective, because I am, in fact, Christian, and so that is the reasonable perspective I’m going to think of them from. I’ve heard stories of missionaries and great acts of faith in various obscure countries where one person stood up against an army in order to remain faithful to God. But I’ve also heard of small things, mere whispers of His love, that kept the gospel alive. Those are the missionaries whose names we don’t know. But while the ones we know are spoken about and their stories are told and admired, I think in some ways it’s the nameless ones that do more for the kingdom. We sometimes think we have to do great things for God in order to spread the gospel, but sometimes there’s nothing more powerful than being just simply, quietly faithful.

– Perhaps “friend” was not exactly the right word. You did not have friends nowadays, you had comrades: but there were some comrades whose society was pleasanter than that of others. –

This quote struck me deeply because it’s just so darn true. We don’t really have real friends anymore. We live in a society of friendly acquaintances.

“Confession is not betrayal. What you say or do doesn’t matter: only feelings matter. If they could make me stop loving you – that would be the real betrayal.”

She thought it over. “They can’t do that,” she said finally. “It’s the one thing they can’t do. They can make you say anything – anything – but they can’t make you believe it. They can’t get inside you.”

“No,” he said a little more hopefully, “no; that’s quite true. They can’t get inside you. If you can feel that staying human is worthwhile, even when it can’t have any result whatever, you’ve beaten them.” –

The irony of this statement is hilarious when you read later on in the book, because it’s quite proven that they can actually get inside of you. It’s really not hard to psychologically manipulate someone. But if your adversary isn’t fully intending on psychologically manipulating you, then it is reasonably true. You can say whatever you want whether or not you believe it – it’s called lying. Nobody can really make you believe anything. Ultimately it’s up to you to decide.

– Being in a minority, even a minority of one, did not make you mad. There was truth, and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad. –

It might be hard to believe, but sometimes it really is everyone else who’s crazy. Just because you’re the only one that thinks a certain way doesn’t mean you’re the one that’s wrong.

– “She’s beautiful,” he murmured.

“She’s a meter across the hips, easily,” said Julia.

“That is her style of beauty,” said Winston. –

I like that this little snippet was put in there, because it’s so true and so bespeaking of today’s society. Julia represents our typical society nowadays. She saw the woman’s size and measured her beauty by her appearance. But Winston is the one that’s right. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, and I’m trying not to sound too cliche here, but literally everyone is beautiful in their own way. Sometimes I’ll look at a person and just be completely overtaken by the pure beauty of them, trickling out amidst their uniqueness and their movements. I wonder why nobody else can see it.

– He thought: “If I could save Julia by doubling my own pain, would I do it? Yes, I would.” But that was merely an intellectual decision, taken because he knew that he ought to take it. He did not feel it. In this place you could not feel anything, except pain and foreknowledge of pain. Besides, was it possible, when you were actually suffering it, to wish for any reason that your own pain should increase? –

I don’t even know what to say about this. It seems so self-explaining. But I love it, because it made me think.

– He had no difficulty in disposing of the fallacy, and he was in no danger of succumbing to it. He realized, nevertheless, that it ought never to have occurred to him. The mind should develop a blind spot whenever a dangerous thought presented itself. The process should be automatic, instinctive. Crimestop, they called it in Newspeak. –

I was astonished when I first read about Crimestop because I’ve been doing it for years! I didn’t know it was something other people could do or even knew about. Orwell goes on to explain how it worked, but I’m going to explain it in my own words.

The act of what Orwell calls “Crimestop” is rewiring your brain to avoid certain thoughts, so that you don’t even entertain the possibility. It’s like you’re going along a train of thought, and when it comes to that point, it just stops. I’ve done this many times, and it’s very hard to set up those blockages in your mind. I’ve found it helps, though, to simply rewire it, so when your train of thought trails in that direction, you’ve set up a link to another thought that it will jump to automatically, so instead of stopping, it just diverts. I’m not exactly sure how I’ve performed Crimestop all these years. I think it’s through intense practice and discipline (as every great undertaking is achieved), where every time I approached the thought I wanted to block, I trained myself to think something else instead. It’s really fascinating that the human brain can do this, and it’s really helpful for keeping yourself on the right path.

– If you loved someone, you loved him, and when you had nothing else to give, you still gave him love. –

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Chapter 20: Samuel and Saul

I really do wonder about how Oursler portrays the characters in this book. Some of his portrayals make sense, but on others, I can’t see the line of logic that led him to assume certain aspects of their personalities. Saul did seem like a fairly messed-up guy in some ways, but we have to remember that God chose him, and He wouldn’t have picked a king who wasn’t suited for the throne, right?

Chapter 15: the Conquest of Canaan

This is one of the most exciting parts of the Bible, I think, full of action and war and supernatural intervention. How long must it have taken for everyone to realize Joshua’s prayer had come true and the sun was actually standing still? It’s one of those really cool moments when God intervenes, but He does it silently, and His silent acts almost seem more world-rending than His loud ones.

In the past couple months I heard a sermon on why Moses was such a great man. I know Moses is dead by this time, but the connection I’m drawing is to Joshua, and why he isn’t considered as great as Moses was even though he led the conquest that established Israel in its Promised Land. Joshua did amazing things, too, so why is Moses considered the better leader?

The answer the sermon gave was that Moses trained a successor. He had an apprentice ~ Joshua himself ~ to whom he taught the fundamentals of leadership and to whom he left the leadership of Israel after he died. Joshua seemed to be a great leader in every other regard except for this one ~ he did not train someone to take his place when he died. That is the mark of a great leader.

Chapter 14: the Red Thread at the Window

Is that really how “thread” is spelled? It looks odd somehow.

I had never thought of it extensively before, but I wonder where Rahab’s family lived? Clearly they were in Jericho, but did they live with her? I always assumed she lived alone. But she did ask the spies to promise that she and her family would be spared. She was obviously the leader of her household, which in those days would mean she must have had no husband, but maybe she had children living with her?

The spies told Rahab about the mighty army of the Israelites and how God had led them to victory many times before. How appalling it must have been for Rahab to look out her window and watch the “mighty” army walk around her city for seven days! They weren’t even attacking! Not a single arrow was fired over the wall. Just a lot of marching and trumpeting. It probably looked more like a marching band than an army. I wonder if Rahab laughed within herself like Sarah did at how God was choosing to do things. The whole city of Jericho was probably laughing by the end of the week.

But then suddenly the walls began to crumble, and the Israelites rushed in, and the entire city was overtaken.

Dang.

They did not see that coming.

Chapter 12: the Golden Calf

I have always wondered what must have come over Aaron that he would do what the people asked and construct an image to call god. And why, of all things, a calf? Oursler says that it was a symbol used in Canaanite worship. Perhaps Aaron was afraid the people would do something to him if he didn’t make them a god. Or maybe he thought he wouldn’t be able to control the people in Moses’ absence if he didn’t do what they asked.

And what was Moses thinking when, in his angered frenzy, he forced the people to drink gold? Surely that must have done bizarre things to their systems.

I knew that the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years after this, but it had never occurred to me that it wasn’t because God kept leading them around aimlessly for so long, it was because He simply removed His pillar of cloud and of fire and let them navigate on their own.