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Limitless


Power in the liberal mind

Our protagonist is a writer, concerned with a manifesto about the individual’s plight in the 21st century. How narcissistic… He also mentions a utopian society. How juvenile. First, the girl leaves him. Second, he meets a dealer.

The story seems made for a trailer: it shows he gets everything advertised on TV. Fame & fortune, to put it mildly. – He disdains to work a bourgeois job; he contemns his own father. Then something happens to his brain. He does not find God. His judgment is not improved. His self-understanding, such as it was, disappears.

What new drug is he taking? Maybe a doctor could give you the science. But could he explain the attraction & the consequences? You could ask, anyway. Our protagonist becomes incredibly handsome after taking this drug; & very powerful. His dealer sells him a story about pharmaceutical companies; he laughs at anyone who would believe this; finally, he gets killed. Our heroic writer is desperate to get more of the drug, willing to enslave himself to whoever could provide it. Apparently, the powers reside in the drug, not in him.

Our protagonist unusually narrates his own story. The dead man bequeaths him, let us say, a lot of money & pills. He asks you & me what we would do. Well, let us see what he does. He starts working out; dressing better; learning the piano, we know not why; & putting mathematics to good use in gambling. He also learns languages, apparently to seduce women who seem easily seduced. Perhaps there was a relation between his lack of achievements & his sense of his worthlessness. Certainly, there is a relation between his newfangled achievements & his great sense of his own worth. Perhaps one pill a day keeps the black dog away.

Like the modern executive power, our protagonist is energetic. He acquires power without purpose. But power was not an end in itself for our protagonist: he was poor & self-loathing, but safe. Power was a means: his pitiful attempts to answer the question: what is the good life? Wealth & health come first. But luxury & pleasure are not far behind. But at last come politics & capitalism. In the end, this man seeks elective office. Being science embodied, he predicts the future: his victory is inevitable. Science is power – & this is revealed to be the path to tyranny. Our protagonist kills without second thoughts; to say he does it in self-defense is merely to say that his power to predict the future is not what he thinks it is. Speeches cannot fully replace deeds. He wishes to make himself into a god. What will happen to those who deny him?

For fans of Bradley Cooper