Episode One is now out on sound cloud.
In celebration of this being the First official episode of Tangent General – you get access to the full show notes!
Show Notes: (please note, the script and the recording differ slightly)
Dreaming of a split self as a solipsist…
[Fade in – Edie Bricker and New Bohemians What I am]
From Yik Yak: Slept for 12 hours last night, woke up today with strange void feeling. Not sure if I am just imagining the world or if I even exists.
Have you ever dreamt you were awake only to wake and realize you were asleep? Have you ever woken and begun your day, gotten out of bed, walked around in your bathroom or kitchen and then suddenly found something was off? A light switch didn’t work or the clock read jibberish… Then with a paralyzing shock, the ceiling comes into view and you become aware that none of your actions actually took place. You had dreamt the entire scene and perhaps worse still there is a lingering sense of annoyance that you now need to retrace your steps. Retrace must be in inverted commas here though, because of course you didn’t actually do those things. At least, you didn’t do them as yourself in this reality. So, who did do those things? Or what reality were they done in?
Can you feel that, that’s the worms crawling out of the can I just opened? How do we analyze this situation? We can take the Thomas Sheridan route – wherein he suggests that indeed those things took place, you just weren’t in a reality you recognized during your usual waking hours. Then there’s the Freudian approach which would highlight the manifest as being a projection of anxiety connected to the anticipation of the day ahead.
Then there’s the path I am going to take… I read you a post about dreaming just before and this is a launching off point for a thought experiment. Can we ever determine if we exist independently of others or are we merely a product of our own imagination?
[Clip 02 – The N9nes Trailer.]
Self and Non-self? What is the boundary between our conception of Self and the world we live in? The boundary is the space where Self begins and ends and what is between is what we call identity. We have discussed this boundary before as being the limits of our comprehension of language. Yet what happens when that boundary is hard to define? The schizophrenic idea that the self becomes blended indistinguishable from the non-self. This highlights a fascinating point, that is the boundaries of our awareness can be blurred. What happens when they become blurred though? What happens when they become indistinguishable? Is that the point of believing we are simply imagining the entire world and our existence in it? Is that the point of solipsism?
Is solipsism then merely a desperate grab for Self in a non-self universe? All becomes I, because otherwise I don’t exist! And what happens if you let go of Self; do you cease to exist or do you become enlightened?
[clip 03 – Diet Soap 153 clip a] [Postmodern juke box Dream On] [Sam Harris – What is Self?] [Christopher Hitchens Solopsism]
Hide and Seek in the Modern Forest…
[Fade In – The Might Be Giants – Birdhouse in your soul]
Nyctohylophobia is the fear of the forest at night. According to www.fearof.net the fear of dark wooded areas can bring on many symptoms, names a full-blown panic attach that is characterized by the following: 1) Hyperventilation, 2) sweaty hands, 3) Desire to flee, run or hide, or even cry, scream etc. Most Nyctohylophobics try to avoid events such as picnics, camping, hiking etc. owing to their fear.
Have you even been afraid of the dark? Have you even needed to sleep with the light on? For me, it was about a decade ago when I went to see an outdoor showing of Wolfcreek at the Royal Botanical Gardens in the heart of Melbourne. The atmosphere that night was eerie to say the least, the film (an adaptation of the Peter Falconio Murder and the Bungalo State Forest Killings by Ivan Malat) was dark, pitch black oozing from the cavety where the antogonist’s heart should have been beating. We’ll return to the Wolf symbology later, but for a moment, let’s examine what it is to feel fear.
In 2006, Zygmunt Bauman introduced his thesis on Liquid Fear by musing on the nature of fear itself. Wholly intangible, utterly unknown and completely anxiety inducing. He wrote the following on page 3:
The experience of living in Sixteenth-Century Europe – the time and place when and where our modern era was about to be born – was crisply, and famously, summed up by Lucien Febvre in just four words: ‘Fear Always and Everywhere.’ Febvre connect that ubiquitousness of fear to darkness, which started just on the otherside of the hut door and wrapped the whole world beyond the farm fence; in the darkness anything may happen, but there is no telling what will. Darkness is not the cause of the danger, but is the natural habitat of uncertainty – and so of fear.
[Fade in – The Village (2004) Trailer]
The Villages of the sixteenth century Europe were surround by dense, dark and often disturbing wooded areas and forests. A legacy of which has been masterfully carried on in Videogames such as The Legend of Zelda. Within the Village there was a familiarity, a sense of comfort in the surrounding, but just beyond was a clear and devastating physical realm of fear and uncertainty. What lurked in the forest? What existed on the other side of that farm fence?
Was it King Arthur and his knights? What it Robin Hood, perhaps even Shrek?
Did it Matter?
Our ancestors were confronted by this dimension and it pervades our modern conception, at least symbolically speaking, of fear. Perhaps one of the best examples of this is the tale of Little Red Riding Hood.
[Fade In – Red Riding Hood (2011) trailer]
Here again we return to the notion of the Wolf. If the forest represents the fear then the Wolf symbolizes the danger. Yet to read too much into this, is to skip 5 grueling centuries of important human history. I will thus argue here, that in the context of Sixteenth Century Europe (Before Australia, Before America, Before the Belgian Congo) the Wolf lurking was a very real, very imminent danger for the villagers. In his essay chapter Walking With Wolves, Kerenza Ghosh writes (p. 123):
In Europe during the Middle Ages, wolves vastly outnumbered any other predator living in close proximity to human beings. As well as attacking farm animals, wolves were known occasionally to spread rabies and kill solo travelers. Their abundance combined with folk superstition led to widespread fear that bordered on hysteria.
This hysteria became brutal and stretched over nearly 600 years. As Ghosh continues (p.124):
As early as the tenth century, King Edgar of England imposed an annual tribute of 3,000 wolves on the King of Wales, and in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the English Kings Richard I, John and Henry III granted land to individuals who endeavored to keep the number of Wolves under control. Throughout the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the hysteria intensified: wolves were persecuted, tortured and brutally slaughtered in Church initiated programs, and the Inquisition condemned hundreds of people to be burnt at the stake as werewolves.
The wolf may have even more literal and figurative important in the United States of America though given that it is the spirit animal for the many of the indigenous population. Further, the wolf is (apocryphally perhaps) intimately connected to our embrace of fire arms. Some say that the gun was what tipped the balance of power and dominance between humans and wolves.
Now today, with the proliferation of guns and the results of 600 years of hysteria, wolves are very much at risk and considerable efforts have been needed to maintain populations. Take for instance the protection measures used in Yellowstone Park (Not to be confused with the brutal environmental policies of the WWF and Agenda 21). The irony that, of course that Canines are descendant from wolves, is not lost here.
If the dog is our best friend representing at a macro level how cooperation is a clear survival strategy then one reason the wolf is so feared may be our projections of the darkness in humanity upon a wild, cunning animal capable of savagery.
Here it is then that we begin to traverse, through the symbolism of the wolf as derived from its actual presence, from the literal to the figurative. So, in a figurative sense the wolf is the danger lurking in the forest – today endangered and literally out gunned. But what is the figurative meaning of the symbol of the forest?
[Fade In – Blair Witch (2016) trailer]
No doubt, as we have been discussing the forest as a symbol of uncertainty, an embodiment of fear. Yet decoding such a complex symbol is difficult at best. I shall now offer just two interpretations. According to woodlands.co.uk who quote J.C. Cooper:
Entering the dark forest or the Enchanted forest is a threshold symbol: the soul entering the perils of the unknown; the realm of death; the secrets of nature, or the spiritual world in which man (and woman) must penetrate to find meaning.
Penetration is a very masculine verb here so once again there is an acute irony that little red riding hood is the archetype of “man” “penetrating” the forest in search of meaning.
Nonetheless, at one level at least, the forest is a symbol of psychic awareness. Teaming with life, friendly and dangerous, it is unpredictable and largely unknown. However, umich.edu have a slightly different take on what the forest may symbolize. They argue:
The forest has great connection with the symbolism of the mother, it is a place where life thrives. However, it must also be noted that it can be seen as a contrast with the city and the comfort of home. The forest harbours all kinds of dangers and demons, enemies and diseases. The home of outlaws. Since it is outside the cultivation, it is outside reason and intelligence.
To put it crudely then, the forest symbolizes the first impression a young man has gazing at a vagina in the flesh for the very first time. Or really perhaps the pubic hair covering the vagina. During his first sexual experience. Now I don’t know if I completely buy that reading.
If is a very specific reading that applies only to straight men and I wonder if the hairs on the anus provoke the same reaction for gay men. Do women, upon seeing a lover’s vagina for the very first time share this combination of anxiety and excitement that this symbolic reading suggests?
Further to this, another irony emerges when we conceptualize the forest as mother. For at a literal level at least that makes the womb the safe, comfortable village and the world in general the dark uncertain dangerous forest!
Returning briefly then to something I have begun this tale with, Bauman offers a deep insight into why the forest or the woods is still a highly relevant symbol to contemporary society.
I mentioned before that the forest itself was the embodiment of fear. In the Middle Ages this was apriori, a rather obvious statement. Yet today, modern industrial technologically driven societies have largely banished from view the forest as a physical location. Is that a comment about fast food companies tearing down the amazon to breed cattle in large quantities? You decide. Perhaps it is, but more importantly this is a comment that captures the very lack of physical borders in our modern world. Where are you right now? Do you know where that is in relation to where this was recorded?
This lack of boundaries, borders and especially forests is crucial in understanding how fear has manifested itself in today’s world. So I will leave the argument with a question and a statement. The statement is from Bauman and it introduces the concept of derivative fear. The question is this: Where is your forest?
Bauman (2006, pp. 3-4) introduces the concept of derivative fear developed from Langrange’s work on recycled fears. Derivative fear is thus a second-degree paranoia that like direct anxiety influences our behavior and decision making. Bauman elaborates as follows:
Derivative fear is a steady frame of mind that is best described as the sentiment of being susceptible to danger; a feeling of insecurity (the world is full of dangers that may strike at any time with little or no warning) and vulnerability (in the event of the danger striking there will be little chance of escape or successful defense; the assumption of vulnerability to dangers depends more on a lack of trust in the defenses available than on the volume or nature of actual threats). A person who has interiorized such a vision of the world that includes insecurity and vulnerability will routinely, even in the absence of genuine threat, resort to the responses proper to a point-blank meeting with danger; ‘derivative fear’ acquires a self-propelling capacity
[Fade In – Rumsfeld Known Knowns]