Freedom – The End of the Human Condition

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Freedom – The End of the Human Condition
By Jeremy Griffith
WTM Publishing – £15.99

Kick the darkness till it bleeds daylight.
                                        Bono

Beginning to think is beginning to be undermined.
                                        Albert Camus (The Myth of Sisypus).

Knowledge requires great daring.
                                        Nikolai Berdyaev (The Destiny of Man).

What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty!… in action how like an angel! In a apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not me.
                                        William Shakespeare (Hamlet)

I haven’t attended that many book launches of late, but I was invited to attend the launch of Freedom – The End of the Human Condition by Jeremy Griffith at the National Geographic Society in London. And what a gathering of people it turned out to be.

Apart from the most humble attendance of the author, Griffith himself, Sir Bob Geldof was asked to give the opening talk, which, if nothing else, was both eloquent and exceptional.

Not to mention punctuated with a menagerie of home-grown truths.

So, nothing new there then – for as is probably well known, Geldof, along with the luminary likes of Sir Peter Ustinov and Peter O’Toole, has always been something of a truly terrific orator. Hence, the whole affair having been filmed by WTM.

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So, the book itself.

According to Dr Ronald Strahan, who is the former director of Sydney’s Taronga Park Zoo: ”I consider the book to be the work of a prophet and I expect the author to become recognised as a saint,” while Ian Frazier, author of the bestselling Great Plains and Travels in Siberia, has stated: ”questions of the size you raise tend to stagger me (as they do most people) into silence… What you’re doing is admirable.”

Indeed, the work Jeremy Griffith has undertaken for many, many years, and is continuing to investigate, is undoubtedly admirable. Enviable even. Enviable, because of the blatant honest conviction with which he pursues his most analytical of work(s) and writing(s). The dense and most admirable manifestation of which is surely, clearly, a labour of (philosophical) love.

For who else would have the brazen temerity to write: ”The fundamental goal of the whole human journey of conscious thought and enquiry has been to find the reconciling, redeeming and rehabilitating explanation of our species’ troubled condition, so to reject it when it arrives is madness of the highest order!”

Or lest it be said, quote the aforementioned Nikolai Berdyaev: ”Knowledge requires great daring. It means victory over ancient, primeval terror… it must also be said of knowledge that it is bitter, and there is no escaping that bitterness… Particularly bitter is moral knowledge, the knowledge of good and evil. But the bitterness is due to the fallen state of the world… There is a deadly pain in the very distinction of good and evil, of the valuable and the worthless” (The Destiny of Man).

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Moreover, it might be said that these 787 pages will invariably (only) appeal to the converted. To the curious. To those who fundamentally care, and dare I say it, those who have read a few books. And just one of the reasons I mention this, is because everyone from Moses to Plato to Kierkegaard to Camus to J D Salinger to George Bernard Shaw to     T. S. Eliot is herein quoted and somehow mentioned.

Now in and of itself, this could be construed as being literally, theologically as well as sociologically k-a-l-e-i-d-o-s-c-o-p-i-c in scope – which admittedly, is absolutely fair enough. After all, a similar assessment could just as readily be applied to every argument. Every book.

In fact, the same could just as easily be said for nigh everything that’s ever said. Ever shared. Ever written. BUT (and here’s the deal), it’s all in the telling. All in the sharing. Surely it’s all about how things are conveyed?

For instance, the American President, Barack Obama, could regale something out-loud and it be would plausible if not riveting; entertaining if not profoundly interesting. My old biology teacher could regale the EXACT same words and it would be fucking awful. Awful to the point of being uninteresting, lacklustre, hot-air-induced, redundant bollocks.

Likewise, the written word. Or why the interpretation of some Shakespeare plays will entice an audience onto the edge of their seats, while others will have an audience doze off unto a miasma of mere expensive sleep.

Freedom – The End of the Human Condition, for all of its idiosyncratically, idealistic notion(s) of further, honest, redeeming advancement, unfortunately falls – from a reading perspective at least – somewhere betwixt (the delivery of) that of Barack Obama and my old biology teacher. Lovely fella that the latter was, he really wouldn’t have made for a great dinner date. Just like this book, which really doesn’t make for great reading.

To be sure, what it’s ultimately trying to convey is undoubtedly magnificent; but, as Geldof mentioned at the launch, Griffith (and this book as a whole) would benefit greatly, with a tough, robust editor in the vicinity.

David Marx

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