A Theme Of Belief In Lost Horizon By James Hilton

What comes to mind when one hears the word “belief”? Every individual is their own person and thinks differently than others. There are many interpretations of the word “belief” and can be used in different ways depending on what one is referring to when using that word in particular. One can even say that a belief is more than just one thing that can be taken in or brought into the light for another to see. Although there are many different definitions, belief is defined as “something that is accepted, considered to be true, or held as an opinion”. This word of belief can be interpreted as many sightings of one individual and it is seen in many novels, whether it is from the old times or the novels of today. As in many novels, no matter the age and time it was created and published, the word “belief” is one of the themes that all characters portray throughout the novel, Lost Horizon, by James Hilton. Lost Horizon by James Hilton is first told from the first person point of view and then told from third person point of view.

Lost Horizon is about four travelers’ journey to Baskul, India, a destination that they have never seen so they set a quest and voyage for the seek of adventure. On the way to their destination, the pilot tricks them and takes them to another mysterious valley, known as Shangri-La. The four travelers: Conway, Barnard, Miss. Brinklow, and Mallinson are stuck at the mysterious place and have no way to leave or escape. Eventually, Conway, Barnard, and Miss. Brinklow adapt and are happy. The only person that still wants to find a way to leave is Mallinson. Mallinson’s loss of interest causes major issues between him and the other three characters, Conway, Barnard, and Miss. Brinklow. After some time, Conway agrees to help Barnard, Miss. Brinklow, Mallinson and himself to escape from Shangri-La, but unfortunately the only person that survives is Conway. James Hilton finishes the book off with the conversation between the narrator and Rutherford in which both believe in Shangri-La’s existence and with that, to bring some sort of hope Conway to make sure that he finds a way to go back to Shangri-La again.

Beliefs can be affected by your experiences and/or with other individual’s words and actions. A belief system are concepts that shape and define who you are based of on the few factors to come along with one’s true way of thinking, such as religion, philosophy, and morals. One can be persuaded even to bring forth an enlightenment to seek the truth or to open one’s mind. Just like anyone else, I encountered some experiences to a point where I turned into someone else with a different belief system. To where I, in the beginning, did not have my own proper belief system, to where I did not feel like my true self, and to the point where I had the feeling of being off-course with reality itself. As mentioned before, my parents pushed me into the Pharmacy field for my future’s well being. However, once I made the shift from Pharmacy to an Information Technology field, a major that I am highly interested in, I had low self confidence and eventually developed a negative mindset to where I did not believe much in myself. To where I thought to be a disappointment for my parents and did not believe that I was able to accomplish anything. Luckily one of my close friends noticed at that moment, I was going through a tough time. He told me that I have a lot of potential to accomplish so much in life because of how I am as a person and how dedicated I am with what I am able to do and able to achieve with myself. My friend guided me by reminding me what my beliefs are, what truly motivates me, and made me go back to that same person that I was before with a positive belief system and with a much more open mindset. At first, I did not know why he was saying that until he said that he was able to see who I really am, what I am really able to do and to realize that somethings happen in the dark so we are able to see the light later on to become a better person.

An example of when “belief” is shown in Lost Horizon by James Hilton is when one of the character, Rutherford explains “People make mistakes in life through believing too much, but they have a damned dull time if they believe too little”. Rutherford went on a search for Conway and to all of the spots to confirm if Conway’s story is true because he did not want to make a mistake and believe anything without proof. Everyone makes mistakes and without making mistakes, we are not able to learn and grow from them. Humans are not only the ones that make mistakes, machines even make mistakes and it is a daily part of life. It is a way to fully know the reason why we make mistakes though, we deem our mistakes that we cannot see as “perfection” without knowing the reality of what is at its perfectionist peek. As mentioned before the definition of “belief” is “considered to be true, or held as an opinion”, Rutherford needed to make sure that everything that Conway said was as it should be and make sure it was nothing more than the truth. Rutherford still considered the truth but up to a certain extent to where he wanted to be sure with the possibilities of no mistakes.

An alternate example of when “belief” is shown in Lost Horizon is when all four characters are at Shangri-La, and Conway believe that there is only peace and happiness around this mysterious place. As Conway explores around, he realizes that people live a long life and do not grow old. In Shangri-La, there was a norm that if one reaches an age of hundred years or over, they are given and looked up as a leader, known as lamahood. On page 152, when Chang is explaining the aging concept in Shangri-La to Conway, Chang says, “No, we are not restricted by any definite age limit, but a century is generally considered to be an age beyond which the passions and moods of ordinary life are likely to have disappeared. '. Chang was trying to explain that when one reaches the stage of lamahood, it is easier for one to know and understand the meaning of life more than before.

The traditional myth of Shambhala is similar to Shangri-La. “Shambhala, which is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘place of peace’ or ‘place of silence’, is a mythical paradise spoken of in ancient texts, including the Kalachakra Tantra and the ancient scriptures of the Zhang Zhung culture which predated Tibetan Buddhism in western Tibet. According to legend, it is a land where only the pure of heart can live, a place where love and wisdom reigns and where people are immune to suffering, want or old age. ” To summarize what kind of place it is, it is a place full of peace and tranquility, to where the old will not suffer as much of the painful reality of age, where it can bring one’s true self or their “radiant spirit” to not cease from what they are physically.

With the use of different philosophies that Hilton presents in the novel, the readers believe that such a land of utopian peace does exist. The first philosophy that was shown is Platonism, which means that an individual should learn all kinds of knowledge in order for you to have a good life. Hilton presents this theory by putting a description of the library in Shangri-La, “Conway, during a rapid glance at some of the shelves, found much to astonish him; the world's best literature was there, it seemed, as well as a great deal of abstruse and curious stuff that he could not appraise”. Another philosophy that was shown is Aristotle’s theory, to have an honest, balanced high-principled life. On page 69, Hilton presents this theory: “We rule with moderate strictness, and in return we are satisfied with moderate obedience. And I think I can claim that our people are moderately sober, moderately chaste, and moderately honest”. These philosophical beliefs make it seem like Shangri-La is full of happiness and love solely.

There are numerous belief systems based of on the different religions and cultures. Majority of the beliefs have their own holy book, worship one or many Gods, and have big religious days; each having a significance or meaning behind it. Religion and belief system are correlated and one does not exist without the other. There is no right or wrong way for what one does in their culture. Beliefs and belief systems shape who we are as a person and accept the society around us.

10 October 2020
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