George Orwell’s 1984 is the first (and so far only) book I have ever read in a single day. I thought it would be good to familiarize myself with a classic that told a story that has been the standard fictional depiction for societies to point to as examples of dystopian and authoritarian progression. It’s a stomach churning read which in the later portions of the story, I found myself unable to look away even though I desperately wanted it to end. Its imagery is hallmarked by grey colorways and sterile, dilapidated cityscapes. And then there is the paperweight.
Without revealing too much of the story for would-be first time readers, the main character comes across a glass paperweight. It is simply a piece of glass with a small piece of pink coral nested within the center. Winston (the protagonist) lives in a world of constant surveillance and where any element of uniqueness is not only shamed, but seen as an open criminal act.
His obsession with this glimmer of color and seemingly purposeless object is a critical theme throughout the novel. As Winston desperately seeks for meaning and the truth in a world where both are dictated rather than discovered and proven, the paperweight is a portal to a world that no longer exists. It is an object that has an inescapable pull with an impossibly vague origin.
“The thing was doubly attractive because of its apparent uselessness”
Aside from the desire to connect with a forgotten world, Winston’s fondness for something simply and exclusively due to its beauty is one of my favorite concepts I’ve come across in recent memory. How beautifully human it is to look at a piece of glass with a touch of color and to be enamored with its beauty and to see a world of potential discovery.
It’s a special gift as part of human consciousness to be able to manufacture beauty in the simplest, most innocuous objects – something we should cherish and utilize at will. Especially with how fragile and precious life and Time are. To recognize and therefore create meaning and beauty – where neither were the intended or stated purpose – is a natural magic trick we all possess. As with anything else this act is subject to over use and the law of diminishing returns, however I would always rather over use this capability than risk shortchanging the joy of an abundance mindset.
What I find so special and try to carry forward through my life is that Winston was lost. He was seeking the truth. He was seeking meaning. He was seeking change. And in this search and his review of the paperweight, he found and created beauty. And through this he found comfort and forged a new avenue to explore mentally to search for the change he needed. He found meaning in something that, by all accounts, his society would have deemed both useless and worthless. While the world he lived in his very different than our own, this principle and choice is something we can all use in our daily lives today.
There is an abundance of beauty which naturally exists in the universe. This meaning is only bestowed by the observer, making it a curiously unique and subjective experience. However even speaking with someone who is describing the beauty of something, anything, brightens the soul of the person listening. Too often I think we all allow standards to be set for ourselves or to have standards of meaning and beauty dictated to us by popularity and social expectations. We forget we are capable of recognizing and creating beauty and meaning in anything we choose. We forget it is a choice and that when well-intended, there is nothing to be embarrassed about. Who is to say what can’t be meaningful to another? Who is to say what cannot create an inspiration for the beginnings of a new path for your journey?
While of course beauty does naturally and inherently exist, and there are lives and professions dedicated to only creating things deemed beautiful – that power of recognition and creation rests with each of us. To look onto something and smile and appreciate its own uniqueness and subtleties. To look around at the world around us and make a choice for a new perspective and path. Like most good things in life, it’s not something you have to seek, you can choose to recognize and create it at will. And that’s what I found so special in the paperweight and Winston in that moment. He chose to recognize beauty and create meaning – something I try to employ everywhere I look.
See you tomorrow.
Inspirations: 1984 by George Orwell
Quote: 1984 by George Orwell