Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Self-awarness in literature

From James Merrill’s The Seraglio:
Lily…rehearsed the rules he obeyed at her age, in the same walled garden.

“Uncle Francis is It,” she announced proudly at last. “If he wants to play he has to be It.”

Francis shuts his eyes and counts to a hundred:

“Ready or not!” he shouted…With exaggerated stealth and flashing stern glances into the greenery he started across the lawn…Where were they? No sound of smothered laughter came to ease his confusion.

But only after coming upon the children building castles at the sea’s edge, oblivious to him, did Francis stare over the lulled water and understand. He was It. He tentatively said so the first time, then once more with an exquisite tremor of conviction: “I am It.”

The words carried with them wondrous notions of selflessness, of permanence. His father coughed behind him in the house. The children trembled against the sea. He knew the expression on his own face. The entire world was real.


  1. This is like coming to the realization that you are essentially alone in life. People can scratch and claw to form attachments 24/7, but when it comes down to it, each of is alone.

  2. Ech... smacks of optimism and life having some sort of worth. I just can't get behind that.

  3. Surely, you must find some hobbies "worthy" of enjoying, PS? What an otherwise dull existence.

  4. Of course PMS does, judging from the life worth comment we've got ourselves a nihilist, and after a few days of pissing and moaning and being a stereotype, a nihilist gets the hang of finding ways to amuse themselves.

    I don't know if one would bother to go on with all of the tedium of living were that not the case.

  5. Why does everyone assume nihilists have to whine? I just don't attribute intrinsic meaning to any action. I just do what's fun. I'm not generally a dick about it (unlike straw nihilists). I actually only get annoyed when people insist that I should be another way.

    Also, Postmodern is one word, so it's abbreviated P, not PM. <3

  6. PMS stop whining K

  7. Well, that managed to be cogent and coherent. Double points.

  8. Hmm. Is Trogolodyte aware of the irony inherent in its name? Either it's well aware and an excellent troll or oblivious and a truly remarkable example thereupon of its name.

    PS: As you like. The thing about whiny nihilists is that nihilism is easily misunderstood, and its implications just as easily. So, when someone awakens to the thought that life et al are without meaning, it tends to produce a chorus of whines and wishes to purge the planet of humanity for some reason, particularly if they were/are religious.

    And then, they either go back to what they were doing, seeking blissful ignorance, or they grow up into proper nihilists who know how to enjoy and handle such a philosophy.

    Hmm. I was thinking to make another thrust towards another point, but I've forgotten what the point was.

  9. Those are fine points, Amdusias. I think what leads to misunderstanding about nihilism is that there are so many kinds (moral, existential, etc.) and each person's idea of what it is differs. The religiosity comment is especially interesting. I was never particularly religious, and I think I largely skipped the proto-nihilist whinefest. And you're right about the next stage, really. As a nihilist, if you don't just give up and become a misanthropic atheist, you basically either kill yourself because you're depressed about the insignificance of it all, or you become generally okay with everything because you're not burdened by the weight of meaning. You can't waste your life if it's meaningless, after all. I think that feeling of wasting is what depresses people, often.

  10. Naturally. We're raised to be of some use to others, because they're selfish enough that all they want from us is something that pleases them. Following from this, we're raised to see everything as filled with meaning and purpose, and conversely that having no purpose is a waste of time and oxygen.

    As to religiosity, if you're taught that this meaning stems from what I enjoy referring to as the Magical Sky Daddy, and you come to the conclusion that life is without meaning, this tends to cascade into other aspects of your life, such as your religion. Someone raised such that they genuinely believe that their purpose comes from the MSD would have a particularly shaken foundation.

    So I have taken that final route of general indifference to meaning, and I'm a fan. As I've indicated previously, it seems you've taken the same path.

  11. Delightful. I think you'll be a fine addition to the lurkers around here.

    Also, is that a Goetic reference I see?

  12. 67th of the 72 Pillars of Solomon / Ars Goetia, King Amdusias, a man with claws and unicorn's horn, and a trumpet symbolic of his terrible thunderous voice.
    The seal looks like a cat wearing a skirt.

    I certainly have the time for lurking, at any rate. A laptop and a preserved session, it may be weeks before this site manages to pass out of my browser session.

  13. I do love the Goetia, at times. I rather prefer Beleth, myself, but I'm a math nerd. :/

  14. I studied the Goetia because I was stuck on the idea of having a demon lover. Seemed preferable to humans, as they are a pain in the ass and I don't get them.

    It worked without me even having to do anything at all. He showed up, bit me on the ass (literally and figuratively) and messed my head all up.

    And now I'm here. True story.

  15. Hmm. It seems my comment disappeared into the aether. To that end, let us attempt this again.

    I am not familiar with your persona, Medusa, but I am going to take an educated guess and say that this is the plot, so far as relevant points are concerned: You despaired of normal men, found a sociopath, loved (quite kinkily, it sounds) and lost.

    And now you refer to this sociopathic ex-lover as a demon. At this point, under typical circumstances, one might be enraged.

    However, the conception of demons that I am most fond of (Lucifer and Sandman, Neil Gaiman) portrays them in a very serious and well examined light as sociopaths, without necessarily showing the word or having had that in mind. Therefore, your usage of the word fits with my connotative definition of demon.

    So, that is cool.

    The name Amdusias was more chosen for its sound than meaning, but the meaning is still useful - for instance, I write in an exaggerated and archaic fashion. I recognise this fact, but oft it seems people lend weight to my words for their verbosity and archaicism, and this is perhaps that same thunderous voice, if one is willing to draw the analogy like the string of an instrument and pluck it just shy of snapping.

  16. This demon never, ever used contractions and made use of archaic language whenever possible. Lots of "thy" "thus" "thee" "art" and "fundament".

  17. Medusa:

    There could be any number of reasons for these archaicisms (yes, I do indeed love the way that word rolls around on the tongue), ranging from that he enjoyed them to asperger's syndrome.

    I would not be so hasty to blame it on sociopathy from a sample of two.

  18. No, not blaming anything on sociopathy.

    I mostly blame it on his need to look smart and act charming.


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