“In the end, it’s never what you worry about that gets you.”

Thank you to Jettboy for the friendly prodding. Sometimes I need a little harrassment to get off my butt and do this damn thing.

So here goes…probably nothing. (I’m still shaking the dust off my writing skills…so bear with me).

A few quotes from my most recent read (Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk):

“‘In a city with a limited police budget,’ Sister Vigilante says, ‘a high-profile serial killer is an effective means of behavior modification.'”

“All day long, she says, our biggest enemy is other people. It’s people packed around us in traffic. People ahead of us in line at the supermarket. It’s the supermarket checkers who hate us for keeping them so busy. No, people didn’t want this killer to be another human being. But they wanted people to die.”

“And Miss America says she doesn’t mean just here, in the Museum of Us. She means life. Is the whole world just people eating up other people? People attacking and destroying each other?”

————————————————————————————————————————————

Some thoughts:

Murder as a form of behavior modification. Huh. Now that’s a thinker. Now what I have to say here goes along with this ever-present theme of “People Killing People”–like Major Henry West says in 28 Days Later–“there is not infection. Just  people killing people.” — Now if we follow this in the way I’ve laid it out in my thesis, it means anything from rage infected people murdering each other to the literal transmission of disease. One human infects another, whether pruposefully or not.

But Palahniuk (who, by the way, is one of my favorite authors because of his absolutely bleak outlook of human nature) takes this idea of people killing people a step farther in that he outlines the human yearning for bad, for less people, for tragedy, for catharsis, for the apocalypse.

Why do we want these things to happen?

As humans, we hate each other so much that we want there to be less of us.

We crave death for others, and an epidemic is the perfect vehicle to lead us to that. The apocalypse is even better.

Whew, okay that last statement is a little heavy. Someone help me back off of it a bit?

And with the last quote, about eating people…destroying and attacking. Miss America is speaking in a more literal sense than vampires drinking blood or zombies devouring flesh. She means straight cannibalism. They have already eaten Comrade Snarky, and as Miss America  gives birth, knowing that her child is going straight into a pot of boiling water to be supper, she wonders if this cannibalism, and mutual hate and destruction happens in the outside world as well. And I think that is one of Palahniuk’s key points, and Major Henry West’s as well–people hate and kill each other. Call it rage, call it insanity, call it AIDS, call it Ebola….people kill each other. People eat each other. The infected spread their disease by devouring the living.

A little more about Haunted:

Haunted is a novel made up of short stories written by 24 “writers” trapped in a house together. They each take measures to sabatoge their time there…to make everything harder…to make everything a story worth selling. They imagine that once they are “rescued” there story will make them millions. And the one who is worst off will have the most pity in the eyes of the world. This is why they starve themselves, hack their own limbs off, purposefully destroy the furnace, the washer/dryer, etc.

The plot is heavily influenced by “The Masque of the Red Death”–all of the characters are self-serving, but it is Mr. Whittier who has arranged the “retreat” who takes on Prospero’s role. In the Poe tale, Prospero seals himself up in a fortress with others. It is to protect himself from the infection raging in the outside world. During a lavish party in his garrishly decorated fortress, in infection enters anyway and “holds illimitable dominion over all.”

There are a lot of really nifty allusions to Poe’s story in Palahniuk’s novel…but I’ll let you figure them out on your own if you want to read it. I highly recommend it.

What I want to point out though, is that while Poe’s story is about both a literal physical contagion, it is also a story about the infection of the human soul and morality. Palahniuk’s primary concern is the latter. There is no physical contagion which decimates his 24 writers, unless you count the insanity which spreads, multiplies, and demolishes the entire group one by one. Each one of the characters dies due to an initial selfish act.

Less and less does epidemic seem to be about physical illness. More and more it is about something unpalpable. Rage, insanity…

but then…

while disease presents physical symptoms, it’s spread is just as unseen as the spread of rage. And rage has physicalities that can be seen.

So where can we go from there? Okay my faithful few…your thoughts?

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2 Comments

  1. Whoa, you’re a dark one, sweetheart.

    Great stuff; I’m crazy busy at present, but I wanted you to know that I AM paying attention, and I do intend to comment in greater depth than, “Whoa, you’re a dark one, sweetheart.”

  2. Katie, you wrote:

    “Less and less does epidemic seem to be about physical illness. More and more it is about something unpalpable. Rage, insanity…but then…while disease presents physical symptoms, it’s spread is just as unseen as the spread of rage. And rage has physicalities that can be seen.

    So where can we go from there? ”

    From my view of the kaleidoscope you characterized Poe in a way that is
    galvinizing…” infection of the human soul and morality” and points in the most magnetic way for further inquiry/reflection.

    Also, I am imagining you’ll find some insights from one of my favorite writers: Paul Levy, an artist and a spiritually-informed political activist. He is the author of The Madness of George Bush: A Reflection of Our Collective Psychosis. Here’s a thread of an idea for your consideration~~~

    “People don’t see … because they don’t recognize the symbolic dimension of existence, but rather are absorbed in the literal dimension of reality. It is very convincing to only take things literally and see these literal facts as “the (one) truth,” as events in this world ARE literally happening. They’re as real as real can be. This can be very entrancing, particularly with the evidence right in front of our face. People are dying. Seeing symbolically doesn’t negate the literal dimension but instead complements and completes it, as both are true simultaneously. The literal and symbolic dimensions of reality interpenetrate each other so fully that they can’t be seen as two separate things joined together, but rather are interdependent parts of a greater whole. The birth of symbolic awareness not only more fully completes our picture of the nature of the universe we live in, but gives us access to the way to actually deal with this deadly disease.”

    http://www.awakeninthedream.com/artis/georgew.html

    I am hoping you’ll dig into several of his articles and share your reflections about our human contagious narrative… We are the stories we tell each other and I am missing yours!


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