City of Omelas · 2:32pm
An English paper I had to write for college that turned out rather well, I felt like sharing it with all of you! Those of you already familiar with the short story "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" will immediately know what I'm talking about. Those not, can read it for free here.
Happiness is not complicated, though we may like to make it so. It is simple and unenlightened, unable to understand pain and fear. To feel happiness is to be at your most simple and perhaps this is for the best. Perhaps our obsession with knowledge and power which comes from pain and hardship has blinded us to the reality of the world. That simplicity is best. This would at first appear to be the philosophy of the people of Omelas, but at the same time, all that they have and know springs from the same source. The pain, the fear, the emptiness of the child in the dark.
Omelas claims to be happy, to be free of doubt and misery, to have no need of the sword or the crown. But are they? Where then does this greatness come? From pain, from blood, from death. The pain of the child, the blood of his heart, the death of their innocence. Children are taught to pity the child, and from this pity they become consumed with a need to help all whom they can. Except, of course, for the one who truly needs it. Misery is the rock upon which their kingdom is built. Misery is the wellspring of joy.
In this place of supposed joy we find all of the trivial things with which we associate the concept. Food, drugs, sex, competition, triumph, and the absence of crime. But what is the price we pay for such? The price we pay is our silence, our knowledge, and our humanity. To experience joy we must ignore pain. The pain of those who do not share in our joy. Can such apathy, such willful cruelty, even be called joy? It cannot.
The joy of Omelas is a lie, a fable, a cruel trick. It is fleeting and insubstantial as the supposed kindness of the people who live there. For so long as suffering exists, joy cannot truly be found. Green fields cannot grow out of soil soaked with blood. The people of Omelas see a wonderful place, a place where true happiness can exist. I see a fortress of lies protected by guilt. The lies the parents tell their children, the man tells himself, and the child in the dark weeps into his hands. The guilt of a people who refuse to sacrifice for the sake of another, of saints who cannot save, of a child who cannot understand why.
I would walk away from Omelas, I would set out from the city of gilded gold and painted smiles. I would walk the dark path to the mountains, though I may walk to my doom. Nothing would I bring with me from the city of fools. No food, no clothing, no weapons and armor. Nothing built on misery can last, and nothing borne of darkness would reside in the light.
Onwards, I would travel. Past the farms and the villages, past the lights of civilization, and away from the broken sobs of a child who cannot be saved. I would walk the Pilgrim's Path, drink from the Waters of Pain, and scale the Mountain of Hardship. Up, up, up I would go. Further and higher until with every breathe I drew in the vapor of the clouds, with every step I walked not on stone and dirt but light and morning dew, and with every sight I witnessed the stars so close I could touch them. I would walk away from Omelas.
I would walk to the palace of the Jade Emperor, and there I would ask him "Why?" Armed with this answer, I would walk to Olympus and ask Zeus "How?" I would then walk to the sun and consult with Ra, "When?". Then I would go down, down deeper than the farthest mines, the yawning chasms, to the Underworld. There I would meet with Hades and Osiris, Persephone and Anubis, and I would speak to them "What?"
When my journey was done, I would scale once more the high peaks of Olympus, return to the Jade Palace, and continue on. Past the limitations of the merely immortal, past the edges of the map, and slip the surly bonds of Earth altogether. I would walk the surface of the moon and speak with Chang'e, and from her I would drink of the Elixir of Life. But I would not stay long, for my journey would call me elsewhere. To the stars.
I would walk away from Omelas, I would see the world and know its wonders, and then I would leave. I would leave and never look back. I would be far from the city of lies, from the painted faces of its inhabitants, from the child whom all abandoned. I would walk away from Omelas, and dwell among the stars.