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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Robert Silverberg on the Cost of Telepathy

Gray Dalek says:
I like Robert Silverberg stories,
but please, no more talk of dying.

In his novel Dying Inside, Robert Silverberg suggests that no gift comes without cost. During David Selig's teen years, he finds it difficult to enter into relationships with others. He falls in love with the most beautiful girl at high school, but she dismisses him as a geek. Well, why should be bother to overcome his teenage awkwardness, and work to build a relationship with another, when none of his fellow students can hope to achieve the perfection of the girl he adores? Isn't it easier, perhaps even better, to visit the mind of his perfect goddess, and experience everything she thinks and feels during her intimate interludes with the young men she allows into her life?

As David Selig matures, he uses his mind-reading ability to read attractive women, to anticipate their moods and desires, and he says and does the right thing to gain entrance to their bedrooms. Sometimes these romances amount to no more than a casual fling, while other times they persist past their initial entanglement. Yet none of them last, as neither David nor the women he hooks up with find a foundation capable of securing lasting satisfaction with the other.

While David lives in the hope of meeting the right woman, he channels his love of reading into a university degree in literature, and assists academics and students with their studies. But the happiness and stability that others attain elude him. As he ages and matures, he yearns to build something meaningful and lasting with his life. Worryingly, he cannot read minds as ably as he did in his youth. He has trouble picking up on others thoughts and emotions, and retaining his hold on their minds once he's made contact. This ability to read minds is what makes him special, and the ability he's prized above all, yet it seems to be slipping away from him. What will he do if it goes away entirely? How will he carry on without his strongest personal asset? Can he even survive without this ability? Or like Talia Winters, will he become someone else entirely?

Sometimes we find that the abilities we seek to master, and the goals we strive to achieve, provide less satisfaction than we had imagined. Most of us would imagine that David Selig's ability to read other peoples' minds should have made him a god among men. Instead it diminishes his life, and distances himself from others. So maybe it wouldn't be so great to know what everyone was thinking all the time.

Dragon Dave

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