Thursday, July 25, 2013

Lost Horizon

Moderation in all things is Chang's summation of the underlying philosophy of Shangri-La in James Hilton's novel, 'Lost Horizon'.

I have seen both film versions - the great Frank Capra one and the rather odd 60s musical version - but have never read the book until now. It is a captivating read, fast paced, admirably focused on the central character, Conway, and why he might make a successor to Father Perrault, the community's founder, and just sufficient seriousnessness in the proffered philosophy to arrest attention, prompt thought.

There is in Shangri-la both a tolerant sense of understanding as a enterprise after knowing, where even certainty is held in moderation, and a prescience about the immediate prospects of the world that is compelling.

The world is going to hell in a handcart (Hilton is writing in 1933) and there is a necessity for cultural preservation that is more than the simple accumulation of past glories but a way of life rooted in contemplation, a more measured sense of time and a restraint of passion that is slowly cultivated not imposed. It is a recipe that ought to be carefully pondered - it speaks to an age so earnest upon activity that reflection is squeezed out and that is measured in value only by what we consume.

It is an alluring utopia whose prospect for success is left at the end tantalisingly open ended. It deserves a sequel.

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