I have just finished reading An Unofficial Rose by Iris Murdoch. The book is about a complex mesh of intersecting would-be romances and the tension of the plot is held by the question, common to this genre: who will end up with who? However, the book is superbly well written with deep insight into the mentalities of the diverse characters, especially the complexity of what it means to 'be in love' and the ways there are of confronting the fundamental existential question of relating to others who may fascinate yet remain unknown. The romantic intentions of the characters lead them into plotting and scheming and make them vulnerable to rejection, torment and manipulation. The question hangs: is happiness really to be found in this manner? Murdoch has a great talent for unwrapping the internal thought and feeling processes of the characters, both male and female, young and old. One can learn a lot more about psychology from reading such a book than one is likely to get from a textbook. A line of thought that one is left to ponder upon is: Is goodness a kind of unconsciousness? There are no out and out bad characters in the book. The wickednesses are prosaic and 'normal', all inflicted by the ordinary characters. This is what makes the book profound rather than trite. It brings out how ordinary life is shot through with wayward passions and given form by their untoward consequences. In the end, most of the characters are broadly satisfied, though not always in the way that they expected or intended, and life will go on. The wheel of karma will continue to turn and it is not difficult to imagine a sequel novel with the same characters continuing in their virtues and follies and reaping the almost inevitable consequences. I enjoyed it hugely and shall read another of her works soon.

The book also tackles the tension between desire and duty, or, perhaps, not so much the tension as the fact that some people are more shaped by one and some by the other. It occurs to me, in passing, that much contemporary psychotherapy is on the side of desire. The therapist is a consultant in getting to know what your desires are and how to satisfy them or, in the jargon of the trade, how to get your needs met, the 'needs' in question not really being necessary at all, but being things that one thinks (probably erroneously, one reflects after reading IM) will make one feel better. It is certainly open to question whether such a strategy really is a key to any kind of lasting satisfaction in life. The book is wholly couched within a pre-therapy era Englishness that was undoubtedly more pronounced in the 1960s when it was written then is apparent today. Has culture declined? Nonethelessn the lessons for the heart are still as true as they were then and perhaps easier to discern than in our contemporary age of false certainties.

After reading the book one can ask oneself: which of these characters would one most like to be? One might answer, none of them, but then reflect that, in fact, one is all of them, and that is the genius of the book.

Views: 35

Replies to This Discussion

Do let me know when you start reading "The Sea, The Sea"

RSS

ITZI Conference 2017

Blog Posts

Relationship.

Posted by Adam Dunsby on September 9, 2017 at 20:56 0 Comments

Found this on a Chogyam Trungpa video…

''The relationship between student and teacher is like a dance…

In relating with the teacher, your critical input and your surrendering work together. They’re not working against each other. The more input you get from the teacher and the phenomenal world and the more you develop, at the same time, the more you question. So there is a kind of dance taking place between the teacher and yourself. You are not particularly trying to switch off…

Continue

Reflections on Foolishness.

Posted by Adam Dunsby on September 5, 2017 at 11:50 2 Comments

I sometimes can’t believe how defective I am!! Whilst despairing of myself the other day I remembered a Shinran teaching that I found some time ago. It really made me think and reinforced my resolve to practice.

It is a Pureland teaching about the depth of our sin preventing us from being genuinely good. Our efforts to be decent, caring beings are always based in and therefore contaminated by our self centredness, greed hatred and delusion. This is due to the…

Continue

Korean Version of Workshops

Posted by JAESUNG KIM on August 6, 2017 at 6:58 0 Comments

2017 여름 불교심리치료 및 상담 워크숍 3회 내용

THREE PSYCHOTHERAPY & COUNSELLING WORKSHOPS

 

WORKSHOP 1: SNOW UPON A SILVER PLATE [ 銀盌盛雪]: PRINCIPLES OF BUDDHIST PSYCHOLOGY & THEIR PSYCHOTHERAPEUTIC APPLICATION

In this workshop we shall introduce and review important aspects of Buddhist psychology including the conditioned and unconditioned mind, object relatedness, skandha process, the unity of path and goal, bodhichitta,…

Continue

Great Intentions.

Posted by Adam Dunsby on August 3, 2017 at 22:42 0 Comments

  • The power of intentions is a topic that comes up regularly for me and always provides me with food for thought. In a recent service I was struck by the gravity of the Bodhisattva vows that we sing as part of our liturgy. ”Innumerable…

Continue

© 2017   Created by David Brazier.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service