Huxley’s Patio

So at the conclusion of predictable but truly strange chain of events, I wound up spending the day at Aldous Huxley’s house in the Hollywood Hills with his widow, Laura, and some other folks (including Littlest Guy and Tenacious G), and had an odd kind of epiphany.

We were sitting out on the back patio, overlooking the canyon and looking up to the Hollywood sign, chatting, cutting up fruit and watching the kids play, when I realized that this scene – perhaps this exact scene – must have played out on this exact spot, except that the people standing around on the deck would have included Huxley, his friend and sometime writing partner Christopher Isherwood, and the rest of the wartime expatriate intellectual community.

Two of whom would have been Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, founders of the Frankfurt School and root figures in the rise of ‘critical theory’, one of the roots of what I would today call Bad Philosophy.

Huxley himself, with his search for transcendence, fits into the Romantic tradition which I’ve discussed as a further part of the cultural conflict in which we find ourselves.

I think that the cultural /philosophical battles are just now rising to everyone’s consciousness, and are not yet seen as critical, but will ultimately determine the outcome of this conflict.

And here I was sitting on that very patio, chowing down on excellent pineapples and pears, and realizing that I’m a part of a Reformation aimed in part at the very man whose lovely home I enjoyed today, and all his friends and colleagues.

Sometimes reality is just too damn weird.

3 thoughts on “Huxley’s Patio”

  1. I met Laura in 1975 when she gave a talk in Chicago.

    I don’t remember much about the talk but I do remember talking to her afterwards and feeling what I would call an intense personal connection. So intense that I could barely talk. And as you know I am not easily silenced. She felt it too and was a bit more articulate. My future wife was with me at the time and she noticed it as well.

    Glad to hear she is still alive.

  2. Very cool.

    Of course you know I agree with you completely on the centrality of ideas in all of this. But I am going to give a sort of half-defense of Huxley in one sense: for me at least it would be almost unconcievable to understand something like the EU (and even some trends here in the U.S.) without having read Brave New World – one of the ironies about all these guys is that in practice their ideology tends to resemble the very things they criticized. The fits of course are never perfect.

    It’s also one of the few sometimes effective arguments to identify the similarities between what a movement wants to avoid and what it produces.

    But other than that defense (which arguably is of a “previous” Huxley, that is Huxley with somewhat different outlooks than the ones he came to hold later), I completely agree and yes; irony of ironies. 8-)

  3. I was reading Huxley in 1972 and based on something in the reading I suddenly was aware that he was in the room. I have felt since then that he likes to be around people who are thinking about him. I never expressed this to anyone, but it was interesting to read this post and was again think that this man is fascinated with communication from one side to the other, and back again.

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