A strange mixture of luxury and squalor

The second chapter of Out of the Silent Planet opens by describing a room as “a strange mixture of luxury and squalor.” It gives examples such as the room as having fine armchairs but no carpets or curtains, strewn with debris. The room has “empty champagne-bottles” and “teacups a quarter full of tea and cigarette-ends.” The room belongs to a scientist and an investor who have the resources to live in beauty and comfort, but instead have a few luxurious items in a pigsty. The scene is a metaphor for science and business detached from humane uses, one of the themes of the book.

2 thoughts on “A strange mixture of luxury and squalor

  1. One of the main causes for such conditions in real life is an unwillingness to pay others to do “dirty work” ie. things that the wealthy scientist and investor generally hate to do themselves. In my opinion this often is the case for people who have a lot of different talents. They know that they could do X so they think to themselves “well I will do X some day”… but in reality that day never comes because they have more important things to do. This is kind of the opposite of the “manager” who doesn’t do anything *except* manage people. If they need something done they need to think “who can I hire?”.

    The middle path for the talented is to focus on a few key complementary talents, and learn to outsource the things you could do but probably won’t.

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