Monday, October 7, 2013

Themes and Ideas in The Amazing Morse


I’ve wanted to have someone write a paper on my book, The Amazing Morse, but as that is not forthcoming, allow me to point out some of the themes and concepts which are in the novel.


The book begins with a man sitting in an office cubicle, reading a book of detention hardware as part of his work. He imagines the various pieces of hardware coming together and forming a prison cell around him, even as the cubicle walls form a sort of prison of their own, a prison of conformity to which he subjects himself.

There is a definite Hindu perspective to this. Man is cut off from the greater reality, each person separated from the greater universe. I jokingly refer to Sting’s The Soul Cages in my second book, and I think that is a fair comparison. But I think the idea of walls and square dividers work on many different levels. The intellect chops things up in to little pieces in order to be able to digest it. It places a grid over the real in order to treat the whole as individual pieces of data. But whatever the intellect experiences is an indirect experience. Our deepest truths are experienced directly, in a way words can never adequately explain. But the older we get, the more we become adults, the less most of us are able to perceive the world in a direct manner. We perceive things in an intellectual manner, see things for what they represent rather than what they are. We become many levels of abstraction away from the essential truth of things.

Dave Morse’s childhood dream was to be a magician. Because of his love of magic, and because of his desire to hold on to the dreams of his childhood, he is still able to see life through the eyes of a child. Therefore he does not fit in to the business world, a place where conformity of thought seems to rule the day. But while he is a magician, he is not an escape artist. A traumatic experience in his youth has left him with a fear of confinement. Thus he is a failure to himself. Unlike his hero, Houdini, he is unable to risk his life in daring escapes. He feels like a fraud, performing tricks and illusions rather than being a true performer. So while Dave has maintained the ideals of youth, he has failed to develop his adult capacity to live those ideals.

Dave sees his personal plight working itself all around him as well. While Dave sees work as a mass of square cubicles, he sees the neighborhood he grew up in as an endless row of almost identical houses, each only a minor variation from the other. Such an environment breeds conformity. Even the field that he and the other neighborhood kids used to play in has been built over and is now indistinguishable from all the other cubed and sliced up patches of sameness that is the suburbs. There is no place left to hide from the all-consuming conformity.

And yet there are some areas that seemed to resist the wave of prefab houses that are everywhere in the suburbs, places where older buildings already existed. In one such area, Dave encounters a psychic, who with a single touch does something strange and unexplainable to him.

He begins to have bad dreams, which push his ability to make sense of his life to the limit. He begins to realize what a tentative grasp on reality humans have. He cannot find intellectual answers to his problems. Again, the intellect is an ineffectual tool for understanding the world.

While Dave’s world unravels around him, he is pushed to make decisions which could ruin his life, or quite possibly, end the lives of others. He tries to be brave, but cannot bring himself to confront his fear of imprisonment. He settles on a compromise of his values, which almost leads to his undoing. But the seeds he sewed in his childhood have not been completely fruitless.

Dave learns that the world he lives in is far larger than any he has allowed himself to believe. He realizes most people live in a small world for fear of the larger, more dangerous one that exists. But in hiding from the dangers of the larger world, they also cut themselves off from the magic that exists. Most people live in a small world and so feel cut off from the real world. They perceive the stars through a telescope, see a world so vast that they feel like they are nothing. In living in a small world, they can pretend they are bigger than they are, but they are cutting themselves off from the truth, and the truth might just be beautiful. No matter how small a part we play, we are not outside observers. We are all part of that great big universe. If we live fully in the small space that is given us, we are playing our part in that vast and cosmic play. In truly being ourselves, rather than submitting ourselves to an artificial reality, we become one with everything.

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