Clouds, Twisting and Twining (2 of 5)

I’m back, as prophesied by advocates of temporal cyclicism! In Cloud Atlas, something there is that eternally recurs. That something is the will to power. Its disguises are many. Behind the parasitic death-worm of Dr. Henry Goose wriggles the will to power. Behind the depredation of the Maori stalks the will to power. Behind the whitewashing of Seacorp seethes the will to power. Now before this rather dreary picture makes you glum about the mouth, the will to power does have modalities other than violence and brutality. There’s insight, autonomy, and self-understanding. The gullible notary from San Francisco has his worm plucked and eyes opened; Frobisher attains aesthetic independence; investigative journalist Luisa Rey exposes corruption; Cavendish escapes Aurora House; Somni ascends, etc. Like Nietzsche, Mitchell sees the will to power and its manifestations everywhere at work in the world. But he introduces a moral twist, or rather a twist with a moral. Unlike Nietzsche, Mitchell rejects egosim as a basis for a “good” or “healthy” morality. The salvation of the world, if it’s to happen at all, must start with people who, like Adam Ewing, break the identification of the “I” with the individual and devote themselves to something bigger and more important than the narrow interests of their paltry, little selves.

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