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      One may find Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn an extremely independent child for a young boy of fourteen years old. He is first abandoned by his father and then forced to go out on his own. When he grows totally accustomed to his own way of life, the Widow Douglas adopts him exposing him to the strong feelings towards the new restrictions which we all have in society. At this point, the limitations bestowed to him make him feel as cramped and uncomfortable as do his new clothes (190). He heads out on his own with the freedom of the river, but even the river has its own restrictions. He is not alone. There are other people on the river with him, and he cannot ever tell anyone or let anyone suspect who he and Jim really are. The King and the Duke, who would certainly hand them over if they knew who they were, make Huck help them with their schemes. They even take away Jim and Huck's sleeping place, but Huck has no real choice. Huck has an apparent independence which is greater than that which most children have, but, at the same time, is more confined and limited than any other. This ambiguous freedom is not only true for Huck but also for many children today.
      The average teenager today, even in the best family, wants to get away from the confines of the family and find his own individual identity. This is not necessarily something bad. The teenager wants to see who he is himself when there is no one to define him. There is a time when he must be able to stand alone and he wants to be prepared for this first stage of adulthood. During this preparation period, he also wants to enjoy himself. After all, it is true that he will never be a teenager again. Half of himself in adolescence and half aiming for adulthood, he sets off for his life of independence. Like Huck's life on the Mississippi River, the good times are wonderful, but the bad times are oppressing and painful. Independence, although necessary, can be a lonely state of mind. The only ideal independence exists in an ideal world. The teenager has a gift for distorting the size of a problem. He would rather die than get a low grade on his SAT scores. The end of the world comes when his girlfriend breaks up with him. He may even feel the need to get his own extra "medical help" to get the energy to cram for college entrance exams. Whether alone in a school dorm room or among his family at home, he is often consumed with feelings of loneliness and fear of rejection. Although he may have his independence, the restrictions of society allow a "freedom" which takes a great deal of adjusting to. Once out of the confines of the family structure, the young person must survive the cruelties of society without being consumed by the rigid molds which it offers.
      Many times, the restraints brought about by the parent feels greater than any controls on children from the rigid molds we are used to in our society. In the poorest parts of Argentina, mothers leave their newly born babies in the street because they cannot afford to feed them. Most of them die, but many are picked up and raised by young children who have lived through the same treatment. The children raise themselves and, like packs of animals, they survive on their own. All of them beg for food when they see a person who is better off, but one cannot give a child food or money without having ten more children run over for the same treatment. Not surprisingly, their main source of survival is stealing. The condition of these towns is so extreme that they cannot be helped but are given an unlimited "freedom." There is a similarity between this and Pap's treatment of Huck when he locks him in the cabin and leaves him alone for days. Huck enjoys the independence that he does not have at the Widow's house (203). However, he admits that he suffers physically and feels lonely and scared. Pap rejects him even when he is treating him like an animal. The rejection of the Argentine children is also one which originates from the parent and spreads to the whole society. They have nowhere to run, but these restrictions do not come from the customs of their society. The condition begins with the parent who, pressured, supplies this drastic independence.
      The independence of a child turning into an adult and facing adult limitations is not always negative. I cannot imagine Huck Finn dying in the Western Indian Territory after his being the rational survivor on the raft throughout the trip. The Huck we know would probably use the resourceful survival skills he applies from the river adventure to survive his adventures in the "uncivilized" territory and make himself a capable, ingenious man. He is somewhat like a young adult who moves away from home and the influences at home, but finds himself saturated in the molds of his previous homelife. In this same way, Huck lives with the mercy and love which the Widow shows him, the inventiveness of Tom Sawyer, the deceptive cunning of his father, and the caring of Jim. He brings these characteristics together to form his own very special personality. The ingenious Huck fabricates his own death so that he never has to return to any society. He does this a second time when he wants to cut off any connection with the society in which the Shepherdsons and Grangerfords destroy each other, disgusting Huck. But he cannot escape the restrictions, for Jim is a fugitive. Huck feels that he cannot become a permanent part of society again, and he does not want to. Free and independent on the raft with his good friend, he has everything he has ever wanted. He proves to himself that, in a serious atmosphere, he can live without compromising with society. Many people have bargained their desires away to conform in society or family, when influenced by conformity.
      There was a time in my own life when I felt like Huckleberry Finn. I felt I needed the independence from the conformist mold of my family. I simply did not agree with my parents in a specific area. Like Huck, I tried to be happy in my confinement at first. I tried to see it from their point of view, but finally accepted that I was right. My parents may not have been wrong but I certainly was not either. I converted from my set family beliefs, contented and exhilarated. My parents were not as happy when they decided to move away and leave me alone. Still a teenager, I did not know quite what to do with this sudden independence. I went to school, worked, came and went as I pleased, yet I could not shake the feeling that I was imprisoned by the rejection of my family. I gradually adjusted to being on my own, and I made peace with my parents. At this point, I simply could not go back to the dependent state in which I had been. I was not sure if I was independent because I had not compromised and given up anything I believed in, or was still restricted by responsibilities I had never experienced before. These responsibilities could have consumed me and made me quit altogether, but they did not. Time passed and now I see that although we all live an ambiguous freedom, it is freedom. To not let limitations confine us completely as human beings, is greater than even what Huck Finn does. Huck has to run away from society, but we face it everyday. We live in it, we are part of it, but we are our own selves. Even as young adults we can prevent being molded and cramped if we want to. In this way, we hold on to a pure independence, as Huck does when he "light[s] out for the Territory ahead of the rest"(361).


      Poets and poetic thinkersțmen who construct myths in which they incorporate their own struggle to cope with the fundamental questions of lifețare generally "prophetic" in the sense that they anticipate in their solitude the struggles and general consciousness of alter generations. Reading John Milton now, one cannot help realizing at once how close he is to us and, yet, how remote from us. He is remote in his moral assumptions and his world view. Yet the ideas and experiences he develops are often strikingly contemporary.
      Concerning Paradise Lost, Milton's Satan can easily be seen as modern man: the activist,the tireless mover and shaker who acts and moves and shakes because these are his only resources. They make him seem able to tolerate an intolerable hell; they constitute for him a kind of freedom, a pretense of dignity. For this reason he is attached to themțin fact, he makes idols of them. They are his substitute for religion.
      The Satan of Paradise Lost is the embodiment of heroic energy, of obstinately futile resistance-a "freedom fighter," a loser who can't be kept down by superior odds. This doesn't mean that Milton approved of Satan or sympathized with him. But the element in Milton that is "modern," that which brings him close to us, was at work in the creation of this dynamic rebel, while the elements in Milton that are more remotețthe classicist, the Biblical thinkerțdisclaimed the rebel he had crated. We are less disposed to see this because we have become habitually inattentive to the kind of theology that Milton took for granted. The Satan of Paradise Lost is not, for us, part of a cosmic whole. He stands out against a background that does not concern usța modern hero against the scenery of an old opera.
      Paradise Lost begins with the fallen angels lying stunned in hell, where they have just made a crash landing. They do not stay that way for long. There is something curiously American about them. They get up and go, from a very hot part of hell to one that is slightly cooler, and there, in order to make the best of things, build a devilish city. They draw up a plan of action, a diabolical program, an energetically satanic way of life. The city is a secular one and in many ways like New York.
      Whatever this metropolis may be, the point is that they built it quickly with a brand-new method. Their work is itself a rebellions against inertia and defeat. It is a victory because it is gained entirely by their own ingenuity and their own resources. The unequaled verve of the first books of Paradise Lost enables us to surmise that Milton wrote these pages with special satisfaction, even though he was both emotionally and intellectually opposed tot his fantastic rebellion. But, in spite of himself, his own characterțindeed, his own heroic struggle against the inertia imposed by blindnessțdisposed him to sympathize with this"sublimation" of beaten energies.
      Yet, at the same time, these heroic energies are important. All the power, the splendor, and the versatility of satanic technology remain deceptive and pointless. One might say that, beneath his unconscious sympathy with the rebels. Milton realized even more deeply the finality of their despair. This sense of futility, then, is his final judgment on their rebellion, and an insight of their troubles to come.
      The title itself (Paradise Lost) states the problem: Man is created for peace, delight, and the highest spiritual happiness. In traditional language, he is created for contemplation. Not a loss of self in mystical absorption, but self-transcendence in the dynamic stillness which is found not in rest, but in spontaneous movement. But man's weakness and superficiality, his excessive love of self, make the paradise life impossible. Thus, there is in Milton a tension between his desire of this ideal and his feeling that it is unattainable. He never resolved the apparent contradiction. He could not find the secret of contemplation in action, and thus saw, in practice, no solution but action without contemplation.
      When he described the ideal life of Adam and Even in Paradise, Milton was weak and unconvincing. The life is too contemplative for him; there is too much leisure; there is just nothing to do, because they live and work in a garden that of its own accord produces more than they will ever need. Strangely enough, this is precisely the kind of society that seems to be resulting from the fantastically energetic and versatile progress of our technology. If inertia and lack of outlet for creative energy create hell, then it appears that the greatest threat to man is that he may succumb not to hostile nature or to a stronger species but to the explosive violence generated by the utter boredom of his own conquests.
      The modern tendency is to interpret the dignity and freedom of the person not as Milton did, but in a more frankly satanic way. The freedom and dignity for the person, for most people means, in fact, the ability of the individual to assert himself forcefully, to get up and overcome obstacles, to knock a few bystanders down if necessary, and generally get everybody to recognize that he is around. One of the cardinal satanic virtues is the absolute refusal to let anyone else change your mind for you, by any means, reasonable or unreasonable. This means that you can never be prevented from being the boss at least in your own small patch of hell. And this is freedom. "Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven."
      To assume that Milton endorsed such a doctrine would be a misapprehension. He rejected as impotence this completely irrational misconception of freedom. The misconception is, first of all, purely subjective, and, secondly, a blind exercise of will. But a blind exercise of will is doomed to frustration. When purely subjective whims encounter the opposition of objective reality, there is only one way to overcome them: Since intelligence will not serve, violence alone remains. But violence is self-destroying and, thus, absurd. The concept of freedom, then, which demands that one be one's own boss at all costs, is worthless. Much of the talk of freedom today has no more validity than this, and, therefore, is a potential source of catastrophic madness. What forms will this madness take? Anything is possible, from street fights to a nuclear war.
      These ideas are associated with certain basic concepts underlying Greek tragedy, concerning the meaning and moral structure of life. The most basic of these are "hubris" and "nemesis." When man, either through his own fault or simply through some chain of fatal circumstances, begins to defy the gods and assert his own power against the claims of a higher power (or, of reality), he is permitted to get away with it for a while. But in the end, the momentum generated by his rash and deceptive self-confidence brings with it his own destruction. But if even the guiltless or unconsciously guilty hero incurs destruction by defying certain forces, then surely ordinary man's natural tendency toward hubris (satanic self-assertion) will inevitably bring nemesis"--a fatal retribution in which man's power becomes his own destruction, despite his self-righteous confidence and unquestioning self-esteem.
      Thus, it would be tragic to seek, even unconsciously, to make a satanic and activist nihilism one's way of life. In fact, this kind of nihilism has entered into the very essence of all the modern power structures that are now in conflict. This leads to come frightening conclusions. The first and most important of these is that the satanic nihilism of the great power structures represents a fatal infestation of "hubris. This leads infallibly to "nemesis" and to destruction if we cannot learn to do something about it. No free man can allow himself to accept passively and identify with any one of these structures in an unqualified way. To do so meas associating himself with its "hubris," forsaking his moral and personal dignity, and participating in the witches' sabbath to which we are all not being invited.
      Most of us seem to have accepted the invitation without stopping to reflect that there is a choice. Milton insisted that the choice is man himself. Man's true dignity must lead him to a free rejection of any system which makes the power of state, money,m or weapons absolute values in themselves. While we seem to be asked to choose between this power bloc or that, in reality we find that they all concur in placing ideologies above man himself, politics above humanity, party above truth, and power above everything.
      Thus, in every aspect of life, the car is before the horse, ends are sacrificed to means, man is alienated and destroyed in order to serve what is supposed to serve him. The state is theoretically for man, money is to aid his living, and arms are supposed to protect him. But, in fact, man now lives and works in order to assemble the weapons that will destroy him, in an effort to serve a power structure which he worships as an end in itself, but which makes his life more and more meaningless and absurd. Everywhere we look, we find the same contradictions and disorders, all symptomatic of one truth: Our seemingly well-ordered society is a nihilist city of pandemonium, built on "hubris" and destined for catastrophe.
      Is this inevitable? No, because man is still free to choose. But our future depends above all on this: The recognition that our present nihilist consciousness is fatal, and the development of a new state of man--a whole new way of looking at ourselves, our world, and our problems. Not a new ideology, but a new man. With a little humility and patience, the coming hard years may teach us to open our eyes. Meanwhile, a more accurate understanding of Milton may certainly help.


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