Monday, June 9, 2014

Dagon (Gothic literature) 2 of 2

Of the three things mentioned in part 1, the Unknown seems to be the most fundamental. Things being alien is a two way street (aliens are only alien to things that are alien to them. You get me?) And unnatural things are deviations from what is right and healthy, which is another kind of borrowed existence. Things being unknown, however, is an unavoidable part of being a human being (i.e. a being that is both conscious and limited). This makes it more fundamental than the other two categories, even though it is also a relative reality (it only exists because other things do).

But, it’s more than that. Not only is it
unavoidable, it is an ever present sign of something much more important: things besides you. Things besides you are wonderful; things besides you are mysterious; and this is connected to the fact that things besides you will probably always be unknown to some extent. Now, I don’t mean to say that you are the only non-wonderful, non-mysterious, totally known thing in the universe. If I met you, you would be all these things to me. And, really, you’re all these things to yourself.

But, people have a problem. It is a common pitfall for limited, conscious beings like us, arising from

1. Being bombarded with sense-data all the time and,

2. Not being telepathic.

Namely, we tend to think of ourselves as the foundation or center of the things around us. We are so constantly in the middle of our own thoughts, feeling our own feelings, sensing our own surroundings, planning our own days, that it is not a surprise that we would measure everything else by ourselves.

Now, people who act this way are rightly considered selfish jerks. This habit is one to be avoided. As even another selfish jerk (maybe especially another selfish jerk) will tell you, people who only think about themselves are the worst. They are also clearly mistaken, as anyone else will attest. But, nevertheless, it is a difficulty we face, and even if it’s not excusable, it’s understandable.

But, we don’t just have this problem with other people. We have this problem with the whole universe. My daughter, who is nearly a year and a half old, thinks it’s great how cool air blows out of the air conditioner. I think that’s great too, when I've been doing some kind of physical labor and I stand right in front of it to sooth my fiery brow. But that’s about me, not about electric motors or Freon or the atmosphere. She just thinks it’s great itself. It isn't doing something for her when she laughs and points and babbles about it ruffling her hair. It’s just doing something, and she noticed.

We limited conscious beings are in a constant battle. On the one hand we naturally love that other things besides us exist and do stuff, and on the other we naturally tend to reduce everything besides us to our predictions of it, our knowledge of it, and how it affects us.

And here, for better or for worse, Mr. Lovecraft, Mr. Matheson, Mr. Tolkien, Ms. McCaffrey, and the rest come in. They write things for us to imagine which are different enough from what we deal with every day to surprise us, delight us, disturb us, and whatever else confronts us with the Other, the Unknown, and makes us wonder at it.

It’s for better because we get some practice at wondering, and something real is in there somewhere because they can’t make it out whole cloth (or even if they do, they had to get the cloth from somewhere). It’s for worse when we (rather ironically) cram ourselves into a tiny world conceived by a man, because we think the real one that contains all the men and all their worlds is too dry and tiny to be wonderful.

© 2014 John Hiner III 

1 comment:

  1. That seems like a good reason to read things such as 'The Dagon'. I like the idea of being challenged think about something that came from someone else's thoughts and imagination.