Like Hecate, the goddess of underdogs, I have a soft spot for writers and thinkers who arose above personal hardships and triumphed in the will. If they have not experienced human highs and lows, how could they write and explain the meaning of life? Take the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky whose near-death experience on the gallows and subsequent travails shaped how he viewed humanity, the purpose of God, and the dichotomy of good and evil. I compared the life of Dostoevsky with that of Victor E. Frankl, the father of Logotherapy, who survived five death camps during World War 2 because both men’s intellectual fervor saved them from self-destruction in the darkest hours of their lives.
Dostoevsky (hereinafter “D”) was a political prisoner sentenced to death for reading banned books. But the most incredible feat of luck pulled him out of the gallows, and he was sent to a Siberian work camp. He forced himself to channel a danger of hopelessness and resignation in such a squalid environment into the world of imagination. His characters were his alter egos trapped in a cycle of solipsistic containment of morality, religiosity, and social justice. In these attitudinal and creative values as a way of relieving himself from the slough of despond, D finds a kindred spirit in Frankl (hereinafter “F”), whose spirit never succumb to the hopeless situations in death camps where life seemed to be a curse. Instead, f kept himself busy by constantly devising his school of thought, analyzing it, and structuralizing the concepts in his head and on any writable medium he could find discreetly. The result is Logotherapy, the third Viennese school of psychotherapy that encompasses philosophy, religion, neurology, and psychoanalysis, whose nature and method are common to all humans and applicable to all regardless of age, gender, race, and culture.
So much so for the reading of the brief article, but the effect is magnanimous and resonant with a pellucid tenor of a victorious high human spirit with humor as a handmaid to intellect (wit), which would otherwise be grim and dreary subject to temperamental bouts of depression and pessimism. Both men in their prime of youth had their sovereign rights of individualities in tatters and shackles, but their willingness to live and achieve their goals exceeded the compass of the malicious fortune and triumphed in perennial glory. They are, as Ben Jonson in his humor might have concurred, men not of an age but for all time.
People usually don’t want to hear your problems, pains, and premonitions unless they know you or relate to you. In the case of Tookie’s existential distress that seems to be an inexplicable sentence on her life, I will say it’s the latter case for me to be piqued with a kind of sisterhood attached to it.
Malcolm Jones’s review of The Sentence by Louise Erdrich from the Nov. 14th issue of the New York Times Book Review was the most brilliant. I found it so straightforwardly moving and personally related to my own narratives of life, both existential and philosophical, that I felt like finding a friend in the protagonist Tookie. Jones’s interpretation of Fiona’s ghost as one of Tookie’s many as though the ghost itself were a mock to her pitiable wish to have a sense of security in the normalcy of life was particularly impressive. It created unfathomable pathos for Tookie, who seemed to believe that she was kept away from anything happy happening to her.
So thanks to the review, I will get to read more about the kindred Tookie and look forward to seeing if there is indeed plenty of light in the book that sheds upon life’s predicaments.
Stephen King, the King of Horror, said we make up horrors to help us cope with real ones. Some people drink themselves to numb their existential maladies of daily life, or some abandon themselves to unguarded sensual or psychedelic pleasure. But I seek refuge in the stories about the supernatural world that have to be the actual, not the second-hand replica of the author’s imagination that I find hard to be connected. That said, to descry the headline title ‘The Horror’ from a recent issue of the New York Times Book Review delivered on my kindle seemed too pat not to feel psychic about it with a jolt of fillip bolted to my neural circuits. Reading it allowed me to reflect on my affinity for supernatural scare about whys and wherefores.
The article posits that horror movies scare us through exteriority with image and sound to create the illusion of danger, whereas horror fictions are more sophisticated and cultured to understand the complex interiority of the characters by passing over to the creator’s mind. But why do I have to play an amateur psychologist to analyze the inner world of an author when I try to find a niche for my battered spirit in a supernatural realm where no bullies, despots, or melees would follow me? My kind of horror has nothing to do with overtly thought-provoking fictional narratives that are more like psychological thrillers than supernatural ones. That is why I favor the Japanese ghost stories bereft of bodily fluids and materials but full of silent terror in the presence of a sorrowful dead refusing to depart for the Otherworld. Fear is universal. However, its expression is nuanced in the ordinary landscape of daily life, with the undead still among the living in their everyday attire as if they were still alive, not least because Japan is a country of spirits and gods dwelling in nature among the people.
The article is correct in saying that a love of the horror is a part-time love with a mysteriously eerie beautiful parvenue in Howl’s Moving Castle. By wallowing myself in the supernatural, I feel anxiety loosened, nervousness coaxed, anger diverted, sadness halved, and depression diluted to a certain degree. You may say it is another form of a psychedelic illusion of escapade from reality, then let it be. After all, aren’t we all addicted to something to that effect to relieve ourselves from existential frustration in a socially acceptable way?
Voltaire’s Letters from England, originally published in 1733, is a solipsistic treatise on political, religious, and cultural observation during his stay from 1726 to 1729 of the benign nation that welcomed the thinker with open arms when he fled from persecution in his native France.
But the book is not a blinded paean to a rival country with a long sophisticated warring history with an intent to retribute his spites to his mother country as an expatriate. Instead, Voltaire takes a stance of a piqued paratactic storyteller in the fashion of Herodotus’s Histories or a trenchant journalist in the school of George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London. In Voltaire’s eyes, that the English are practical folk with a propensity for realism: reflective, respectful of etiquette, cool-headed, and effusively proponent of scientific discoveries are conspicuous in the overview effect of France seen across from the other side of the Channel.
From the manners of English Quakers to Isaac Newton’s (whom he admires as the brilliant sun of Halios) quantum physics and the law of the universe in great detail, the subjects of interest and the depth of knowledge demonstrate that Voltaire is more than a rebellious French enlightenment thinker. He is a true intellectual whose reason is constituted by the consilience of multidisciplinary subjects in depth. The book is a testament to a genius of a particular kind who embodies a man of letters in its truest sense.
The case of Adam v. Ape in search of where humans came from seems to have waned since Charles Darwin’s seismic theory of the Origin of Species, by which we have become distant relatives of primates, whether we like it or not. The biblical Adam as the first man of Mankind is pitchforked to the first chapter of the Old Testament. The first human ancestor is now obdurately held to come from Africa, making Africans our universal ancestors. But how are we so sure about what we are as we are told to believe? What if the modern humanoid just came into existence as in the case of the Big Bang? How do you prove that the races of Caucasoid and Mongoloid originated in Africa, on the prima facie evidence of their present physical characteristics, pace the evolutionary scale of time in such a short biological time?
The theory that all humans come from Africa has become infallible in the 21st century. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, peoples of nations have begun to worship ideology politics under the pretext of rewriting history, which in reality means upending the contemporary status quo of all social and cultural systems, even if some of them intended to remain valid. Then, for example, how would they explain the existence of the Sentinelese, the most primitive and dangerous tribe living on North Sentinel Island in the Indian Ocean? If all non-black races came from Africa and changed to what they look like today, why do these uncivilized people preserve the most representative features of Negroid in the most shockingly prominent way?
Then scholars will retort with the theory that we all come from Homo Erectus that branched into humans, Neanderthals, and Denisovans. The missing link between the root of Homo Erectus and the branches would solve the key to what exactly our direct ancestral medium was. Would it be just another kind of primate that looked closer to humans? On the other hand, some scholars believe that modern-day humans have more Denisovan DNA than Neanderthal DNA. The latter migrated from Asia to Europe between the land bridge, just as ancient Asians crossed the Sea of Bering from Asia to North America, becoming Native Americans. Then a thesis of Africa as the cradle of Mankind requires a preponderance of onus to prove it a fact. As a matter of fact, Eurasian faces will exemplify how the ancestors of Europe would very much look like. The physical characteristics of East Asians attest to a hypothesis that the Neanderthals from the Asian continent migrated to Europe before prehistoric ears, breeding with what the population that had already existed there be it ever Denisovans or other tribes of Neanderthals.
My view on the evolutionist theory also includes Adam as the first man after prehistoric times, the dawn of civilization. Hesiod’s Golden Age is equivalent to the archeological Paleolithic age. In the period described above, humans looked like us and produced handy tools and weapons essential for developing civilizations. If we think that Adam’s progeny dispersed all over the world a myriad of times ago, then it makes sense why we look like what we do. The gist of my argument is that race is not something that can be altered by itself. Neither a climate change nor a duration of time can change racial characteristics in themselves.