I could easily relate to a lot of what the final chapter was saying to my life. First and foremost, I love learning about the entire universe and our solar system. I am currently in astronomy class and I find it very interesting. When Albert was telling Hilde about how incomprehensibly vast the universe really is, it reminded me of how a few days ago in Astronomy, we watched a video where a couple of friends went to the desert and created the first scale model of our solar system to demonstrate how large it really is, considering how images of our solar system never depict its true size.
I also loved when Alberto mentioned on page 512, “When we look up at the sky, we are trying to find the way back to ourselves. I loved when he said this, because I find myself a lot of the time not being the person that I want to see. I think that a lot of people also feel this way, and I believe that if we came from the Big Bang, it makes so much sense on how we seem to always be unconsciously fascinated with the sky and how people are always searching for meaning. To explain what I mean and also to summarize the end of the book, I think that there generally is no real meaning to anything, because life is just what you make of it. The quote, on page 511, “Yes, we too are stardust,” explains this notion, because for me, it is comforting to know that your life only has meaning when you give it meaning, but in reality, we are nothing, or stardust, compared to the entire universe. Our own world is so small compared to all that goes on in the other galaxies, just like Sophie’s world. Sophie’s world is so miniscule and nonexistent to Albert and Hilde in comparison to their own realities, but Hilde gave them meaning because she chose to. We each have our individual lives that we are so focused on, but it’s up to us to give our lives the meaning of our choosing, that they deserve.
The events leading up to the end of the book did not really add up that well, however, I did enjoy reading the last chapter because I think the content did a good job at summing the book up. Some aspects were even left to the reader to interpret, which is something that I usually like, such as how the Big Bang discussion could essentially tie in with what happened to Sophie and Alberto. Although, before this chapter, I really didn’t like when Alberto and Sophie just disappeared from the Garden Party. The mother’s response was really unusual considering her daughter had just been taken away by some strange old man she just met, while Alberto could clearly have just disappeared with Sophie earlier to escape from the Major’s control.
One inconsistency I noticed in “Counterpoint” that made the whole plot feel pretty anticlimactic, was how Hilde could easily control the her father like he had been controlling Alberto and Sophie. Before reading “The Garden Party,” I had predicted that the Major was essentially god, which is how the book had been initially portraying the Major, but in the end, it would be Sophie who got to decide whether she wanted the Major to be in control of her life by some religious terms. Obviously I was way off, although I felt that the plot was inconsistent since they had been making it seem like the Major was god or the Evil Genius. Hilde had been given an easy ability to do exactly what the Major had been doing the entire book, when the author made the Major’s ability to control Sophie and Alberto seem like a really big deal.
An aspect of the book that relates to my life, is the different light that god is seen under, depending on the circumstance being discussed. In the Darwin chapter, I noticed how Sophie and Alberto seemed to be disapproving of those who didn’t agree with evolution. For example, on page 418, Alberto provides Sophie with quotes of people downgrading evolution from the 1800s, and Sophie responds by exclaiming, “That was almost proof that man is related to the ostrich!” The first issue I have with this, being a prevalent issue in society, is how the novel disrespects certain views on evolution. I fully support the beliefs of evolution, however, I feel that if the book was written to provide readers with a history of philosophy, then the characters should not be biased about the material in the text. In the other earlier instances in the novel where god is most heavily discussed, we can see how the characters are accepting of the numerous theories being presented about god, like one of the more extreme views, where Kierkegaard proposed that people should take a leap of faith and just assume that god exists. The characters of Sophie and Alberto were never sharing whether they thought that this proves or disapproves god’s existence. This continues to parallel the real world, on how people tend to fall into this routine of inconsistently respecting one another’s beliefs. I say this because I am guilty of this as well. I think the overall idea to this is that more conversations should be started in general about these sometimes controversial and opposing viewpoints, so that people can further understand and respect each other’s beliefs.
I particularly liked the Darwin chapter because I find Darwin’s theory really compelling. I felt that the chapter enhanced my understanding of a lot of the general ideas I already knew about Darwinism, making this chapter a more interesting read. More specifically, I think Charles Lyell had some convincing theories. I thought his idea that the really small changes in nature leading to larger differentials in the future made a lot of sense, elaborating on the fact that one of the reasons evolution seemed improbable at the time of its breakthrough was because of how young everyone thought the Earth was. I also thought it was interesting that Lyell’s thoughts seemed like they would be comparable to what Darwin was thinking, when in reality, Darwin had basically borrowed what Lyell had said and had just turned everything into a more complicated theory.
Another aspect of the Darwin chapter that I found intriguing to read was the discussion on page 419 about mutations, and how not only did “survival of the fittest” support the theories of evolution, but how a random mutation in the DNA of an animal could have resulted in a more efficient gene that would later dominate the particular species. Alberto explains to Sophie how Darwin didn’t believe that the gene for a giraffe’s neck length could have been passed down that easily, and that it must have been a mutation. I find this to be extremely captivating, because I wonder if a slight mutation in a an individual’s DNA ended up creating a long lasting benefit on him or her, and then got passed on to future generations without anyone really realizing it.
The first connection I could make from reading the Marx chapter was what Hegel and Marx both explained to be the cause for societal changes. I thought of examples where I’ve seen both of their explanations work in society today. First, Hegel claims that people’s individual connections and relationships affect the changing era around them. I’ve seen this hold true with a parent’s relation to their child. The child’s material world may be rapidly changing around them while their parents are inflicting older values upon him or her. This will cause the child to go spread his or her ideas to their world, or in other words, these spiritual beliefs did not come directly from the material world- they came from the connection and began affecting the outside world. I see this happening all around me with people being heavily affected by their parent’s beliefs. For myself, however, I noticed that Marx’s version is more directly applicable to my life. In the material world I see the rapid changes of technology and social media affecting the people around me. In Marx’s view that holds true just like Hegel’s does, these changes contribute to the spiritual knowledge and connections with people that I will make based off of this changing material world. In essence, both their views make sense as it can be seen that either could be applied to one’s life.
Another connection I could make to my life from the Marx chapter was, sadly, the capitalist scenario with scrooge. As much as a capitalistic society is beneficial in many ways, it is awful that the wealthy not wanting to spread their wealth to those less fortunate than them is all too common.
One of the few aspects of the Marx chapter that I took note of is the plan that Hilde is setting up. She described how she wanted to get back at her father for torturing Alberto and Sophie, and I found it interesting that she was dedicated enough to take it upon herself to plan something against her father. I’m wondering if Hilde has some sort of special ability that would allow her to make some elaborate plan that would closely mirror her father’s abilities. I also found that the letter Sophie received on page 387 was very intriguing. Sophie’s mother assumed it was from Alberto’s brother, but it seemed like a message from the major. The “creative endless toil” seemed to be referring to Alberto and Sophie’s lives that are being inscribed in the book, as they are Hilde’s father’s creation, and he is in complete control of their “endless toil.” The end of the second part, asking if “oblivion ends the coil,” could mean that if the major is not controlling their destinies, then things would turn out badly for them. I really enjoyed reading this short letter that Sophie received, because it was the first time where the book really left you with a cliffhanger.
One part of the Marx chapter, however, that was a little confusing to me was the explanation that Alberto gave about the differences Marx’s and Hegel’s views on what force drives history forward. Alberto states that Hegel believed the world spirit created the material change in society, while Marx thought it was the other way around. This was sort of confusing to me because I feel that the argument is not noticeably stronger on either the side for Hegel or Marx. Both of their views are completely plausible (I’ve explained this in the connection blog) so I feel as though they do not have to disagree with one another, rather, Marx should have just brought up a point that his version of the material world affecting people’s spirituality works as well.
A lot of what the book discusses in “The Enlightenment” chapter I wish applied to more people’s lives today. I agree with a lot of the concepts that drove The Enlightenment Era and the French Revolution forward. For example, on page 314, the text reads how it became a norm to discover your own truth, rather than listen authority. This is similar to Locke’s and the empiricist views on never assuming anything, as they believed one must always experience things for themselves. I think it is not only important for individuals to find their own truth, but to also question authority. It is one thing to find your own truth and go against what most people believe, but it is another to fight against what you are specifically told to believe and to follow, or the law. Today I see a very minimal amount of people challenging authority, when it is important to step up to the people in charge a particular matter.
Another aspect of the enlightenment teachings that is relatable, is Rousseau’s thought on religion. Rousseau had stated, “we should return to nature” because he felt that this would call for great progress and allow for people to use reason and knowledge most affectively, making us better people. I agree with Rousseau’s philosophy, because I find that the more I simplify my life and stay connected with nature, the happier I am. Even though I can’t quite completely agree with his thoughts on his idea of the natural religion, I still think that overall, involving most of your life with nature and not being caught up in unnecessary things allows for one to achieve happiness and be at peace in their life.