Book 1 Chapter 6 Extra
Original and most updated translations are from volare. Please don’t read elsewhere and stop supporting theft.
Thanks for staying with us until C6! As you may have noticed, C6 was a rather heavy one, and most importantly, it does a lot of world-building. What I’d like to do is to provide some (optional) background information about what was said in C6, hopefully to help you better understand it and make your reading more enjoyable.
For one, the belief that all objects (alive scientifically speaking or not, i.e. a rock), possess a will of their own, a consciousness, or an essence, is nothing new: Wikipedia has a nice article about animism (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animism). Essentially it is a religious belief which states that humans, animals, things, rocks, rivers, weather systems, words, anything is animated and alive in some way. This is a central theme in SN.
Secondly, SN also borrows some key ideas from Buddhism and Taoism, and I’ll briefly go over each. First, buddhism. The idea that worlds can exist within other worlds originates (at least in China) from buddhism. There is an expression commonly used in China called 一花一世界，which translates to “A world in a flower.” This passage itself comes from the scripture Brahmajāla-sūtra, in which there’s a tale of a buddha sitting on a lotus flower, and each petal of the flower itself was another world that contained the same buddha sitting on the same flower (Lotusception). This idea also was popular in western literature, and the poet William Blake actually wrote something similar:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auguries_of_Innocence) Blake, 1863.
Finally, the idea that the world (our universe) operates according to a set of rules is a fundamental idea of Taoism. This set of rules is termed 道 (Dao or Tao, depending on the pronunciation, lit. way or path). Lao Zi, a Chinese philosopher from the 500 BCE, the founder Taoism, describes the Dao as being the following:
The Tao that can be trodden is not the enduring and unchanging Tao. The name that can be named is not the enduring and unchanging name. (Conceived of as) having no name, it is the Originator of heaven and earth; (conceived of as) having a name, it is the Mother of all things. ‘
(Translation by J. Legge, Sacred Books of the East, Vol 39, 1891)
So basically a set of rules which govern the universe, and frankly, no one knows what the heck it is exactly, since Lao Zi himself seems to be unable to even name it. The text being written in classical Chinese with descriptions that are nebulous to say the least, to which you can add the difficulties of translation, makes this whole thing not very accessible. However, it suffices to say that the author borrowed this idea and made it an integral part of the novel.
Four key ideas in the novel and their origins
All objects are “conscious” and capable of thought. Animism.
Worlds within worlds, worldception. Buddism
Heavenly Laws, or laws which govern our universe. Taoism.
The best way to spend 5 minutes of your life. Reading a SN chapter
With this, please enjoy the rest of the novel!