Infinite Summer

Do not underestimate objects!
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Author:  joel [ Fri Jul 31, 2009 10:54 am ]
Post subject:  Do not underestimate objects!

Lyle seems to stand out for me, for a couple reasons.

First, because while IJ often dabbles in absurdities and unrealistic events, Lyle seems to take this a step further. Most other things are explained by DFW's near-future science, and with a little bit of suspension of disbelief, I think we can accept them. But a guy who lives in the E.T.A. weightroom and eats only sweat? Yeah. Not that this really bothers me or anything; I just think it's something worth taking note of.*

Second, because this whole thing about objects recalls J.O.I.'s father's obsession with taking control of objects. But Lyle doesn't seem to be about controlling objects. He doesn't really seem to about submitting control to objects, either. Assuming that pulling yourself toward weights that are too heavy for you represents being too ambitious, what exactly does it mean to have weights pulled toward you instead?

Lyle's lifestyle seems pretty clearly to resemble that of a Buddhist.** I can't admit to having too much knowledge about Buddhism, but I do know that it advocates what is known as the "middle way," an avoidance of either extreme. IJ seems to be heavily concerned with the negatives of extremes: selfishness in the form of drugs and entertainment are bad, but so is selfless submission to a group of assassins. Here, I feel as if an obsession with dominating objects (like J.O.I.'s father's) involves a cynical mechanistic view of the world, while allowing yourself to be dominated by objects suggests a submission to a lack of freedom and perhaps a surrendering in the face of consumer culture.*** Lyle seems to engage in something inbetween these two extremes—a middle path—a kind of working together with objects. He remains in the same place all day and receives nourishment from others in exchange for advice: a mutually beneficial relationship rather than a parasitic relationship in which one benefits and the other is dominated. Furthermore, rather than too ambitiously attempt to pull down weights that are too heavy for you and be pulled toward them instead, Lyle advocates a gradual increase in ability, a working-together of a person and gradually heavier weights. Those attempting to be too ambitious and dominate the weights find (like Stice) that they will only be dominated by objects, screwed with in their sleep by objects apparently moving on their own. The story that Lyle tells Stice about the man who lifted the chair also suggests this working-together: the man did not underestimate the ability of the chair, and so he and the chair were able to perform a miracle together.

I think Lyle is one of the few characters in IJ that is able to connect with others meaningfully, because he has not submitted to any extremes. I could be wrong about him, though, especially as we still haven't really been told much about his relationship with J.O.I., someone who seemed to have submitted to an extreme of selfishness—so I'd like to hear what others think about our advice-dispensing sweat-licking Buddhist.

*Considering the fact that Lyle seems to have been one of the few characters to have had an actual relationship with J.O.I., I wouldn't doubt his importance as a character.
**When we first meet him, he is, after all, sitting in a lotus position.
***The whole thing to do with objects here seems to subtly suggest something about subsidized time and advertisement and consumerism—all things having to do with many, many objects. When the stimuli and the choices in objects get to be too chaotic, we become, as Hal as a seventh-grader wrote, catatonic. We become dominated by objects.

Author:  mjdemo [ Fri Jul 31, 2009 1:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Do not underestimate objects!

I agree that Lyle seems to be quite important - the licking sweat is just too weird. Even more weird is that everyone at ETA is just *OK* with this. DFW didn't throw stuff like this out for nothing.

Genesis 3:19 in the Bible says:
By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return."

This refers to Adam and Eve being kicked out of the Garden of Eden for disobeying God, so as a consequence, they would have to labor to grow food to eat.

Abraham Lincoln sort of quoted this line when he wrote in his Second Inaugural Address:
"It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged."

I actually think DFW is doing more ironic juxtaposition (my new fav phrase!) by making Lyle sort of the opposite of a slave driver. In his capacity as a guru, he set people free from their slavery to their environment, their anger, their envy, etc.

Does this make any sense or did I just drop some DMZ?

Author:  Motley Fool [ Mon Aug 03, 2009 7:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Do not underestimate objects!

I actually think DFW is doing more ironic juxtaposition (my new fav phrase!) by making Lyle sort of the opposite of a slave driver. In his capacity as a guru, he set people free from their slavery to their environment, their anger, their envy, etc.

Does this make any sense or did I just drop some DMZ?

It does make some sense with juxtaposition and irony always being a couple of DFW's strong suits. But you make it sound like a little DMZ is a bad thing :twisted:

BTW for those of us old enough to remember Vietnam, DMZ stood for De-Militarized Zone....but perhaps that's pretty obvious.

Author:  EverybodyHurts [ Fri Aug 21, 2009 5:58 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Do not underestimate objects!

Can I get people's thoughts on this topic some more, particularly in regards to the dining room scene. Everyone is aware of but trying to downplay the fact that objects seem to be appearing out of place. This has been occurring for several months. For some reason, Stice seems to be at the center of this energy. Stice almost beat Hal during the afternoon's exhibition match, however Hal was obviously distracted and probably starting to feel some symptoms of marijuana withdrawal, and Stice's shots magically changed direction to favor The Darkness. Now Ortho is trying to keep a cherry tomato adhered to the side of his salad bowl. We recall Lyle's admonition not to underestimate objects, which now seems to be a sort of forewarning.

What (or who) is causing all these objects to move on their own? Lyle seems to have a clue. Hmmmmmmm... ;)

Author:  fivestring [ Fri Aug 21, 2009 7:54 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Do not underestimate objects!

Well, appealing to the Hamlet connections we know that a manifestation of the ghost of dear departed JOI wouldn't be unexpected...

Just my speculation; I'm a first-time reader sticking pretty closely to the spoiler line.

Author:  EverybodyHurts [ Fri Aug 21, 2009 10:20 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Do not underestimate objects!

Yeah, that's what I was wondering too, since Lyle and Himself were close. What I find interesting is that if it is J.O.I. causing all these strange happenings, why not just appeal to Hal directly rather than go through Stice? Is it because Hal is too much of an intellectual (lives in the head) to believe it, and thus, Jim has to get through to him indirectly, via a peer?

Sort of like the issue of overthinking/intellectualizing AA, when it's easier to just do it, get down on your knees whether you understand it or not, and believe what the old timers say.

Don't know if this makes any sense. I've pretty much given up on any "big" answers in the book, rather, I tend to find little hints and pearls of wisdom to ponder on.

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