Over the weekend I got to indulge a couple of simple pleasures.
I finished my approximately biannual re-reading of Dune, and quite by chance got to watch the televised version of Stephen King’s The Stand as well.
Both of these novels deal with the question of Good-and-Evil. Dune as something of a subplot, admittedly, but it’s there: the valorous, moral Atreides versus that cahuit of evil, the Baron Harkonnen and all his clan. It’s a rather simplistic characterisation and serves as a backdrop for the more interesting themes of the book – what happens when religion and government ride in the same cart, the possible value or lack of it of a centuries-long eugenics program, and the nature of human will-to-power.
I always enjoy Dune, but this weekend I finished the first book, and was stuck to the telly for 4 episodes of The Stand straightaway after that.
Stephen King wrote something there which is a pure delight to me – I have known and loved this particular work for decades, thus I knew the characters portrayed on the screen almost intimately, and this makes the screenplay worth watching, in my opinion.
The Good-and-Evil theme is front-and-centre in The Stand, of course, and King did a slightly more sophisticated exploration than Herbert for this reason. But only slightly.
The old saw that evil always contains the seeds of its own destruction is clearly delineated here: the two sides choosing up team members before the face-off across the mountains; the avatars of each team reduced to what are almost caricatures of God and Satan; the sliding of the Evil side into confusion and undoing through its own internal set of parameters which are inherent in the nature of the Beast; the victory even (or especially) in death for the Good team…it’s a slightly more nuanced version of Saturday night live soccer, really.
Which is not to say I was not deeply moved. At the same time, I can see clearly that we are heading away from the acceptance of Being as dual – having two sides – and into the marginally more mature realisation that any two-sided-ness is entirely of our own making, and falls away like dream mist upon the awakening of the third eye. It’s a small shift at the moment, but it’s there.
And on the Sunday – as I put down Dune for another two years, and watched a staged version of a made-up dream on television – the Pope was releasing white Doves which were promptly set upon by a Gull and a big black Crow, causing Team White to flee for its life in a shower of feathers. Feathers which landed on the floor at my feet on Sunday morning, coming with a gust of wind out of who-knows-where.
You really do have to laugh.