Thursday 2 November 2023

The Ubik Solution? Christian messages from the neglected, discarded, despised and marginal

Ubik (1969) is a science fiction novel by Philip K Dick. Without summarizing the plot, or giving away the punch line; suffice to say that it depicts an evil-permeated and rapidly entropic world, which is opposed by a 'god' who is excluded from all mainstream and normal ways of communicating and helping. 

In this world, The System is all-pervasive. God's messages must come from peripheral and unexpected directions in order to get past the monitoring intelligence. Good can only work indirectly. "God" is to be found only in the "trash" of this culture. 

We might imagine an equivalent for our world, in which the real Christian needed to disguise itself as trash, and move out to the places into which The System does not (yet) extend. It can only find an outlet among the despised people, those regarded as absurd, insignificant - or labelled by The System as insane, idiotic, evil...

The System fights back by mimicking the secret divine messages by deploying fakes as bait... The System pretends that these people and messages are radical, anti-Establishment, or disapproved; yet The System contrives to draw attention to them, nonetheless. 

The System advertises (under pretense of warning against) exactly these baited traps; which it hopes will be mistaken for divine messages - but will lead back into The System. 

Meanwhile, the real messages from the divine, real goodness, are unknown or unnoticed except to those who honestly seek them, and are sensitized to their truth. 

The System is entropic, parasitic, destructive - and opposed to The System is Ubik

Ubik is found in various trashy forms, such as an aerosol that (albeit temporarily) opposes and reverses entropy; it heals the dissolutions of The System. 

Ubik is, indeed, understandable as an allegory to the Eucharist; the bread and wine of the Mass as it is supposed ideally to function; yet which is but a "momentary stay against confusion" (to use Robert Frost's description of poetry). 

Even if it was available in unlimited supply and on-demand (and, in PKD's story as in our world, Ubik is actually difficult and dangerous to locate, and has a short 'shelf life'); Ubik does not provide a permanent answer, as does Not the Eucharist.

But Ubik provides a chance to break free from the constancy of destruction by the entropy of the world -- a chance, perhaps, to clear our thoughts and make further enquiries; to seek and discover the availability of a permanent - an eternal - solution to entropy

To discover how to reach a world without entropy, without evil.


Samuel Chapman said...

I have often considered that God is the opposite of entropy. Entropy is essentially the process underpinning time - yet if you can create something out of nothing, reverse death, change one object into another then you are outside of the law of entropy.

Bruce Charlton said...

@SC - I think something rather similar :

agraves said...

Bruce, simply put it maybe that the so-called lessons to be learned or evolution to be gained may be too much to ask for your average spirit. It seems humanity is not learning anything at all and what is, if anything, gained is not enough to make it worthwhile.
I realize that the God is not perfect and neither is the creation but what is happening doesn't seem to be providing any real developments worth writing home about. Perhaps we need a more enlightened Creator to somehow make this world something to be proud of.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ag - Actually, I see things the other way around, almost.

In a general sense, I presume (approximately) that the world overall is 'designed' for the average spirit of each time and place - but the teaching is deigned to be effectual across an eternal timescale, and with the core decision (the commitment to resurrection) happening after death.

(This temporary, entropic, death-terminated world is Not, in other words, *primarily* designed to be the happiest possible world, nor to minimize the temporary sufferings of its death-doomed creatures -- its major purposes are quite different; and it's vital to grasp this.)

Therefore it is not easy for us (with our short termist, mortal life focus) to evaluate what is going on - except in our personal situation; and anyone who evaluates his personal situation in this way, is already halfway to salvation).

Whether we think we 'need' a more 'enlightened' creator is irrelevant; since the creator is who the creator is, and this is the creation in which we dwell. We can only choose to join with actual creation, or not: salvation, or something else.

We can only really know about our own situation, and *maybe* some of those whom we love (although that only intermittently). It is Christian faith in The Creator as our loving parent who is concerned mainly by our personal well-being (as an immortal soul), which is what transforms this life into a meaningful quest.

So long as we Have this faith, our understanding will be sufficient for our need. If we have Not this faith; then the world will often seem like a gratuitous and prolonged torture, leading nowhere.