The Man Who Wanted to Change the World

Aldous Huxley Pictured on Cover of One of My Books

Aldous Huxley Pictured on Cover of One of My Books

When I was a young man in my twenties and thirties, I regarded Aldous Huxley as one of my gurus. I read his novels and essays and treasured quotes from him, such as “I wanted to change the world. But I found that the only thing one can be sure of changing is oneself.” Then there was this one: “A child-like man is not a man whose development has been arrested; on the contrary, he is a man who has given himself a chance of continuing to develop long after most adults have muffled themselves in the cocoon of middle-aged habit and convention.”

In time, I found that Huxley was a very good novelist and an even better essayist. But he was a human being like all of us and, as much as he tried, turned out not to be the universal guru. One of the fun things about going back and re-reading his works is encountering my young self when I was most vulnerable: after my brain surgery in 1966 and in the twenty years that followed.

Last night, I finished reading Huxley’s short novel The Genius and the Goddess, about a young man, himself a scientist, who joins the household of a Nobel prizewinner, as I described in my Goodreads.Com review:

John Rivers is a young scientist who idolizes Nobel-Prize-winning scientist Dr. Henry Maartens, and jumps at the chance to not only work with him, but to join his household, including his Goddess-like wife Katy and children Tim and Ruth. Rivers puts Katy on a pedestal, but circumstances bring her to his bed when Maartens is ailing and the children are staying with a relative. Alternately crushed and ecstatic, Rivers finally comes out of his funk; and circumstances take an odd turn, leaving him to wonder at this early encounter late in his life.

I concluded my review:

I will continue to read Huxley and like him, but he is no longer the guru I once thought of him as being when I myself was equally torn and conflicted about love, wondering whether it would ever “happen” to me. It did, and continues to do so; but the experience is much more complex and mixed than I would ever have predicted.

On an entirely different note, I noticed a strange “separated at birth” coincidence based on the photo above. In it, Huxley looks almost exactly like George Bancroft, who played Marshal Curly Wilcox in John Ford’s masterpiece Stagecoach (1939):

George Bancroft

George Bancroft

The only difference is that Huxley was a bit thinner, but the faces are amazingly close.