Trying to See Behind One’s Back

The past fortnight has seen me planting our garden (finally), a new puppy, an amazing set of dreams and the beginning of my evening classes, all of which have led me to a deeper sense of foreboding than that which characterized my last post. I cannot shake this sense of impending doom, although there are times when things will seem to come together into a moment of real sacrality. This past Friday night and Saturday in the day was one such moment: after spending all day getting the vegetables in and getting things cleaned up, we enjoyed an amazing day of liquor and conviviality with a series of surprising dreams involving Ireland, teaching and a strangely, even disturbingly dilapidated basement. Now, back in the classroom, things are again desperate.

This sense of danger emerges in various ways. I’ve been struggling with an immediate, urgent need for money and have even come up with a number of ‘schemes’ to get out of academia and into a life more in keeping with my sensibilities. From writing to artwork, D. and I have even thought about starting a tourism business. At times I feel as if the children are in danger, whether physical, emotional or even from my parenting decisions. Most disturbing of all, A rediculous little cartoon I stumbled across on YouTube last night involving zombie kittens of the Hello-Kitty variety has now set me utterly on edge, and I cannot stop thinking about it.

My problem with this video is connected to the process of understanding cartoon schema. I fully agree with Scott MacLeod’s understanding of why cartoons are so popular, especially among children: a detailed, realistic face engages our response to external stimuli since that is what other people’s faces look like to us, but a schematized cartoon of a face engages our sympathetic faculties in associating the simplified facial form with our experience of our own face. Thus a cartoon becomes a vehicle for our own sense of self. An artist using such a schema begs the reader to share in the inner experience of the artist through the deployment the cartoon, but this means that, however playful his intentions were, Cyriak Harris, the animator, musician and director of MEOW, has recast the zombie apocalypse as an inexorable loss of innocence. Thus, those innane yet innocuous ‘cats’ who look down into the maelstrom of alternative, street-level culture abandon their own volition, independence and reason in order to join the ever-spreading chaos of ‘real-life,’ in which we are bloody, messy and broken meat-bags motivated only by an aimless, yet driving hunger to pull down and consume whatever seems truly alive.

Now, I know that I’m reading too much into this little, playful cartoon, but the reading holds in the same way that Shawn of the Dead can be read as a criticism of normal, regular society. Only those who don’t buy into a dominant paradigm survive the movie, whatever the filmakers’ intentions were. These readings are strengthened by the very ignorance of the filmakers. The only way they could have said what I have just said is by making the films mentioned here. If the artist could say in words what they know in their soul, they would say it in words and not through their chosen medium.

All of this comes together to give me a feeling of impending disaster, as if the zombie apocalypse is already upon us; as if there is some horrible secret that has been revealed to us but we are too ignorant to notice. It is the same spirit that infuses H.P. Lovecraft’s writing, and it seems to me that my life-long fascination with horror stems from this sense that there is an entire field of existence just beyond the thin veil of our perception. The question is, how does one respond to this and are we to know such things at all?

For some reason unknown to me, I am reminded of many dreams from my youth wherein I could not turn to face whatever was happening in my dream. No matter how I tried, I could not turn in the direction of the action as if I was trying to turn in the direction of a different dimension.

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