Monday, October 06, 2003


Recently I have become fascinated by the nature of fear, as opposed to my youth when I was fearful of natural fascination. Actually, I spent the whole of one summer feared, naturally, by a chap named Random Fascine (but that is a subject for his letters, not mine). By fear I mean any of the various combinations of horror, terror, frison, fright, unsettlement, troubletation, and botherism--to limit my definitions to a strictly observed caste of negatively connotated human flight responses would be a frightful (oh dear) oversight on my part.

If we are to use horror fiction, whether books, movies, freelance live-action park performances or state-funded FEAR installations (held over for three weeks due to suspected pornographic imagery in a series of diagrams from Foxe's Book of Martyrs) as any indication, people are most frightened of scary things. Conventional wisdom supports this thesis, and I am loathe to disagree, given the definitions of the words in the press release sent to me last week from L'Academe du Peur. (They have an entire department devoted to the role conventional wisdom in the statement of fact, "insofar as the human mind might comprehend.")

Personally, though, the scariest things to me are not necessarily "scary." Sometimes I find myself unable to sleep simply because I think I might not be alone in my room. The spectral inhabitants of my various armoirs and wardrobes assure me they are in fact "so not here, you can't even not see us or hear us for that matter." For some reason, their promises only make me suspicious.

"If something were hiding in my closet, isn't that what it would say." According to the things, no.

I asked around a bit, attempting to access some of this conventional wisdom and observed a remarkable phenomenon--people are afraid to talk about being afraid. I was told, on more than one occasion, "I am not scared of anything, really, and if I was, I wouldn't be afraid of that either." People, on the whole seem frightened of those things that frighten all living things--threats to safety. Everybody is afraid of damage. Well, everyone, that is , who doesn't start the afternoon with a bit of the old Thorazine.

Performing a completely non-robotic system scan on all my *.fear files, I find that I am spookified by things that I can't explain. Not inexplicable in the classic sense, but truly beyond my understanding. I would rather be chased by some Lovecraftian horror into its unspeakably dark, vile, and unforgiving lair than feel like someone is in the room with me when I clearly see that I am alone. When you are fighting something dangerous, at least you are fighting. You have a plan.

"If that thing gets closer, Scoob, you and Shaggy pull the rug, and the rest of us will beat it senseless with this assortment of leaden weather-vanes."

It's a lot more difficult to call your friend and say, "Hey, can you come over here? Something's wrong in the kitchen. I don't know exactly. The dishes, well one of the dishes, seems No, I'm serious. Wait....just a ...." and then the dial tone. Regardless of how terrifying the robin's egg blue of that serving platter might seem to me, I can't expect another person to REALLY understand the sort of latent menace I detect. Maybe that sort of fear is a completely personal exercise. I wonder if any research has been done into a paralyzing fear of things being kind-of spooky.

Approxiphobia: a keen or otherwise acute sortaphobic response.

Friday, October 03, 2003

My thoughts on Hegel and the BOOYAH dialectic.

So much has been made of the dialectic (Hegel's three young 'uns) that important aspects of their inter-relatedness...ness have been overlooked. Behold, his dialectic elements, as they appear in the indie-film classic chronicling their respective addictions to talc, salve, and gas station sushi.
  • Thesis: an idea
  • Antithesis (or anti-thesis): A conflicting idea which arises in response to the thesis
  • Synthesis: The tension between the thesis and antithesis (reports differ on the exact nature of the tension, but most feel it boils down to a sort of alchemical strain, rather than psychic strain, which Hegel decided was at least as likely as not.

Given these, the gift of Senor Hegel, we may pose the existence of another tripartite entity.
  • Thesisethis: If we view the previous three as axes in an idea-space, thesisethis is a measure of their orthogonality
  • Thesisethisasis: The projection of the axes onto a new, non-orthogonal axis ( a sort of inner-product)
  • Thesisethises: A diad composed of idea pairs, anti-idea pairs, and tension pairs.

I am glad to have cleared this up. (sigh of utmost relief)

Thursday, October 02, 2003

What happens when ghosts pass away?

When a loved one, whether jovial aunt, crotchety 1000-times-great grand pere, or faithful family pet, passes from this life into the next, everyone involved begins to pose the requsite questions.

"What happens when we die?"

"Will it be boring in heaven, since there is no sin?"

"Is it death I fear, or the act of dying?"

A possible solution to these is the existence of ghosts. If they are actually the remnants of people and things we loved in this world, their existence can give aid and comfort to those left behind. Unfortunately, if a person is stuck in this life (e.g. a kind old neighbor who still tucks children in at night, although she has been dead since 1954) they are in a real fix. Heaven is waiting, hell is calling, and they are spending eternity rattling chains and moaning. In this way, we can see that the notion of ghosts gives comfort to the living while simultaneously robbing the dead of any means of escape.

Consider the following. A person passes away and is missed by his family. In order to help them through the difficult time, he sticks around and haunts for a while. He appears to his daughter during times of indecision and discomfort. He speaks to his widow as she sleeps in order that she understand his desire for her to love again. That sort of thing. Well, before you know it, he has been flitting around the old homestead for 4 generations and nobody remembers what or who he is. Also, it is far from inconceivable that he might befriend other ghosts and spectres in the area. They could comfort each other and help other half-beings through the eternal twilight of the aether-bound. Finally, suppose that this ghostly fellow finds, via medium, time, or other avenue, a means of escape. Someone prays the proper novena and he is summoned at last to heaven. Now his ghost friends miss him. They begin to ask the requisite questions.

"Where do you go when you die, again?"

"How will I talk to him now that he is no longer a ghost?"

"Can I have his sheets and chains?"

I like to think that this twice deceased fellow might hang around for a while longer, and haunt his phantomic ex-colleagues, in order that they might be comforted. However, this might be a problem if it is ever discovered that ghosts, like most other beings, are afraid of ghosts.