On November 22, 1963, Aldous Huxley, CS. Lewis and American President John F. Kennedy all pass away. There are some notable differences between the first two men and the third. There is the first obvious difference. Huxley and Lewis were writers. President Kennedy was a politician. They died in their homes and in their 60s. President Kennedy was assassinated in his prime. Ross Douthat points out in a 2013 opinion piece in the New York Times that “…both Huxley and Lewis looked at a utilitarian’s paradise — a world where all material needs are met, pleasure is maximized and pain eliminated — and pointed out what we might be giving up to get there…, the quest for the sublime and the transcendent, for romance and honor, beauty and truth.” To sharpen his point Douthat brings up passages in A Brave New World and The Silver Chair. In both stories, we have characters who shun comfort and shelter in order to embrace real and full life in all its beauty and discomfort.
What brings this back to Kennedy for Douthat is that Kennedy is a problematic figure who gives us a real life person to illustrate Lewis and Huxley’s point. Kennedy was an adulterer. His administration was as much to blame for the start of the Cuban Missile Crisis because of its sheer ego as much as being pivotal in ending it. However, his cult of memory sanctifies a man and administration out of desire to see the beauty and heroism in the complex reality he existed in.
Book Title: Listening In
Book Author: Widmer, Edward L.
Dewey Decimal Call Number: 973.922 L
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Book Title: A Brave New World
Book Author: Huxley, Aldous
Dewey Decimal Call Number: FIC HUX
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Book Title: The Silver Chair
Book Author: Lewis, C. S.
Dewey Decimal Call Number: FIC LEW
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