Saturday, May 15, 2010

Drowning in Darkness

A Commentary on The Fate of Christopher McCandless

Those that flee into the desert - what are they running from? What are they running to? What are they searching for? What do they find at the edge of death, in the wilderness, their fingers cold and blue, their eyes glazed over, their skeleton smiling seductively at them in the mirror - peeking through their skin, a rictus grin, poisonous reminder, heir to rigor mortis, that final ashen Sardonicus? Is it Death that they were searching for, that terrible specter, the final chorus, enrobed audience of our mortality - as plague carrier, to claim us as a plague bearer - or is it...escape? For Death comes to all. 'Death, I carry the plague of Life within, here it nestles in my heart, here it lies, beneath my lips.' Silence - the blackness that fills the void between stars...no, that sweet Lethe that streams under the guise of Acheron; Forgiveness - for what original sin? Resolution? And how can anything be resolved in a world of illusions? Is is then...judgement that they are seeking?

There is no silence as long as we still breathe. There can be no escape in a Labyrinth without exits or entrances - one we are born inside of. There is no forgetfullness while the eyes of another man follow me and mark my passing. No forgiveness when the penance is only another crime. There will be no resolutions when the terms can never be fixed, and while the questions slip out of our view everytime we get close to them. And what judgement has not already been passed?

Then poor, neglected Turgenev, you will say, misguided in giving birth to the term of 'nihilism', fixing for a moment in the bending and swaying of time the fears that plagued the Elders - all the fears that are as ancient as humanity and civilization, if not older: the crumbling of order, the beckoning of obsolescence, the pains and terrors that dissolve to their common molecule of Death, of Obscurity, of the Grave - had he for a moment cast his eye forward, seeing the emancipation of thought, the chaining of logic with its opposite, the movements of the masses, the death of Reason, therefore...under the boots of black-clad nihilists, you will say, with volumes of Nietzsche, poorly translated, in the pockets of their frock coats, the devil in their eyes, fire in their hearts, steel scalpels in their hands, possessed with the all-mastering lusts for conquest, for recognition, for respect, for mastery, for putting the new fears to rest...had Turgenev for a moment sat on the tripod of Michel de Nostredame and waved his spindly fingers, tobacco-stained, in front of his face, to make the sunlight speak...

Had he but known how to make the nothingness, the maelstrom, break the silence...

Had he but known how to rise from a spiritual death...

For the world, in its ignorance and pride, casts the title of 'nihilist' on those that oppose its standards - the war of the status quo - never imagining that it is itself the deepest pit of the nothingness...

No, the hunter never imagines that he is being hunted...

But how will your free yourself? How to fight? What is there to strike out against when the worst enemy shares a bed with you, stares out at you blankly through the Mercury mirrors that are everywhere, and is responsible for your survival? That is the question...how do you declare war against yourself?

The modern age is cursed with hubris, we are born with it in our mouths. But why is this so?

As we stand on the shoulders of Giants we cast them down before us - that is to say, they are no longer relevant.

For in fleeing the Apocalypse culture we run blindly into its traps and snares...it is still in our minds, it forms the single Antithesis for which we posit ever-new Theses, it surrounds us, it enlightened and educated us, it carries us away, it Fathered us, it nurtured us, it is the enemy, the Shadow, the inner and the outer, it is the Creator of our passions, the Bane of our disappointments: it is ourselves...

There is no escape from what you hate if you must always fight against it in order to determine your own values - what are your morals but a forced march, an encampment, a siege within sight of the enemy's walls? You still carry the virus within you - and if you are an automaton, swayed to the left or right, into life or into death, by the virus or its cure - what are you, really? How are you free? To fight is to never be free.

This is the world of shadows: everything that you have been ever taught is false, everything you have ever felt strongly is an illusion, a house built on sand: know this and you are not free...you only suffer more. What is your freedom, then? When was was the last time you felt free? Isn't 'freedom' just another concept taught to you by your Masters? Everything you equate with 'freedom': what is it, really? Why is freedom a virtue - a treasure? Are there varying degress of freedom, is it all relative, again, or is there a single Absolute to be unearthed and then hidden away again? Can you answer any of these questions?

But this isn't my point at all.

In the face of the maelstrom what was hidden deep inside comes to the fore: it gathers strength, old orders give way, the balance of power is ruptured, chance (or Providence, if you prefer) takes its measure and fulfills its role, what was laying in wait springs to the attack, eager for blood, hungry for life...

At the center of the Maelstrom all things are Created and Destroyed - the center of life is both Everything and Nothing...to view this is to be bitten by the modern consciousness...

But I say Nihilism is the deepest of sleeps - it is the slumbering of the serpent, a creature who knew Truth...

It is the Ouroboros, who can only stare itself in the face - which can not see out of someone else's eyes, the very twist of the helix, the stairway running downwards into the Labyrinth...

And to know that your darkest fears, your deepest regrets, your most personal and hated weaknesses, the most blinding obsessions...to know that they have been felt before, suffered through before, seen before, recognized, categorized...that they have killed before - that is, to recognize History, and the chain of being that links all events, all things, all souls...that is wisdom.

For at the nadir, at the apex and end, the Bottom of the Well, where the eye reaches the limits of the world and its creation, ex nihilo, a drowsiness overcomes one's senses, the Earth seems to tilt and sway, it vibrates with a ceaseless rhythm: the dance of death at the center of all things...and one is reminded, as the Light of Reason expires, a single candle in unlimited darkness, of the curses of the ones who were left behind, whose wisdom forbade such journeys, whose ancestral prudence saves them from the utmost in suffering...and I say to you: nothing else matters, only pain and the ceasing thereof. Pain, the absence, reality, nirvana, the cross, the grave, the day's course through the Heaven's, the moon's fitful light over unconsciousness...

At the edge of Nothing, Life and Light burn away, or rather: they are frozen, shattered, swept down from the center by cold winds. Love corrodes, the Self draws inward around a heart beating in agony, and all else is forgotten...just the pulse, the heartbeat slowing, the drawing in and pushing out of Air, the consciousness fading...and yet there is still the pain...

Nihilism is a slow poison that gives pleasure, it stirs with its own life on the tongue, a distillation of the Black Lotus, but the sand crumbles beneath your feet...the wax melts on your wings...and which thought - today or tomorrow, or years hence - will be the final feather to plunge downwards? The last link in a chain that, once completed, quickly disintegrates? The first seed of madness? The world invites us over the edge.

U. Amtey
12 September 2000