Consider This

Dispatches From the Fringe

Air Into Gold

I wonder sometimes where I lost my nerve. I’ve had this blog since the end of my freshman year of college, and for over a year after its founding I managed to be relatively prolific, opining on this or that current event or pet interest, and churning out words if not perspective. In those days, it wasn’t about figuring everything out, or even convincing anyone of anything; it was simply about figuring. It was a venue for dialogue. And I was challenging my surroundings, seeking a higher ideal, pushing the boundaries of my sphere of influence.

Maybe I just decided at some point that nobody would benefit greatly from having another voice added to the fray of online bickering, and bickering is absolutely an appropriate word to describe the general level of discourse one finds in most online outlets. If you search hard enough, the voices become less strident and more interpretive, but it isn’t common. And I suppose I look into many of my past opinions and tirades and feel them to be juvenile, or overconfident, and can’t help but grimace. Another nail in the coffin of what I thought to be my budding writing career.

Yet it wasn’t completely laid to rest, and my writing has been mostly on life-support for the past couple years, long silences interrupted by occasional blips on the screen, spikes in otherwise untrafficked zones. But I feel the words once more bubbling up from that netherworld of all insight and inspiration. And it makes me feel something again; perhaps I could go so far as it brings back a sense of self-worth that was lost along the way. With ego-death also came posthumous self-doubt, as that self became slowly redefined and refined and yearned to be trusted with a voice and appropriate energy, yet shivered with the memory of mistaken notions and arrogant delusions.

If ever there was a time the world needed more voices speaking truth to power, it is now, as the landscape of global power begins shifting under the weight of society’s demands. I have begun to see and feel how relevant — not arrogant — a mouthpiece for the individual is to the process of engaging that power structure and systematically whiting-out and rewriting the collective narrative. The individual is the base unit of our whole society. The logic follows that if individuals educate and empower one another with truth, society will invariably, inevitably, and irrevocably adjust to accommodate that truth. The alternative, at least as things currently stand, is a desolation of lies; because the truth is, we don’t need to be told that we have self-worth. We already feel that; it is what leads us to stand up for ourselves, even if not all the time, and what makes us sensitive to disparaging words and insults to our character. If we had no sense of value whatsoever we would not feel compelled to object when others do wrong by us. We would not be compelled to confront wrongs nor seek recompense. Some of us do not, but only when we have been impelled to swallow the lies others tell us about ourselves.

The truth is, you are unique. We know this empirically but more importantly we respond to this innately. I do not need to be told that I am different from everyone else, nor do I need to study the sciences to understand that my genetic makeup is, even when alarmingly similar to that of others’, individuated. The human being is not a replica of every other; it is a sentient, reasoning, passionate reflection of what I can only call god. I can think of no other way to put this, and would not try to. We are a piece with the universe, composed of particles and energies beyond comprehension that have been and will continue to be existing for the remainder of, and perhaps past, this universe’s lifetime. We are nothing short of miraculous, each one of us…

I must admit I am drawing much inspiration from a recent viewing of Zack Snyder’s rendition of Watchmen, which was originally a graphic novel. At one point in the film, the major character named Dr. Manhattan — a godlike being of pure energy — suddenly realizes the mistake in his view of humanity. He has completely removed himself from Earth with exhaustion for humanity’s petty differences and conflicts, and built himself a kind of clockwork mechanism out of glass, a symbol of perfection, balance, and austerity (in the graphic novel, the image of this machinery is accompanied with the words “The Blind Watchmaker”). As Earth’s future dangles precariously on the verge of nuclear annihilation, Dr. Manhattan summons Laurie, a fellow superhero and his former “lover,” to Mars — using his handy teleportation abilities — so that she may present a case for the saving of Earth (something Dr. Manhattan may actually be capable of). He patiently explains his ambivalence to Laurie, from the perspective of a near all-powerful being whose conception of time is non-linear, that the universe does not blink if a species like “Homo sapiens” or even a planet like “Earth” is simply snuffed out in the vastness of its expanses. “A live human body and a deceased human body have the same number of particles,” he says. “Structurally there’s no difference.” He even offers to enter Laurie’s own memories to show her how much pain humanity is capable of inflicting. After showing her an unsettling portrait of her own life, Dr. Manhattan watches as Laurie shatters the intricate glass machinery into fragments, perhaps symbolizing her shattered identity. But in the next moment Dr. Manhattan has felt something, becomes somehow inspired by this woman’s outburst.

The monologue that follows is beautiful. It has brought tears to my eyes on several occasions:

Dr. Manhattan: Will you smile? If I admit I was wrong?
Laurie: About what?
Dr. Manhattan: Miracles. Events with astronomical odds of occurring, like oxygen turning into gold.

I’ve longed to witness such an event, and yet I neglect that in human coupling, millions upon millions of cells compete to create life, for generation after generation until, finally, your mother loves a man, Edward Blake, the Comedian, a man she has every reason to hate, and out of that contradiction, against unfathomable odds, it’s you – only you – that emerged.

To distill so specific a form, from all that chaos. It’s like turning air into gold. A miracle.

And so… I was wrong. Now dry your eyes, and let’s go home.

Perhaps you will have to see the film — or preferably read the graphic novel — to agree to the poetic genius behind the whole character of Dr. Manhattan, but the sentiment of something like humility is what stands out to me; conceptualizing a being not wholly human but neither infinite that would recognize the wondrous nature of the individual human being — complete with all the facets of what we might call consciousness and wrought from any and all flaws one might try to pinpoint in the making of that self-awareness. It really is nothing short of miraculous.

And this is something that, to me, seems worthy of tears. I shed tears of joy at the affirmation and recognition of this uniqueness, in direct contrast with a world that sees the unmatched patterning of the person I see in the mirror and would seek to replace that diverse palette with a bland monotone. The one-size-fits-all humanity hawked by salesmen short on imagination has sought to bring the whole down to the lowest-common-denominator of our desires. And one of the dangers implicit to desire is its malleability, its receptivity to suggestion. Thus we find ourselves inundated with commodities that actually commodify their users, and advertising that may be better seen as self-fulfilling prophecy. And the same is true in the inverse: we see ourselves as identical, and in turn respond identically to singular experiences. The product of this self-image is damning; it is at the heart of our collective crisis of post-modernity and it is seeking resolution as we move into the post-Capitalist civilization we will present to our future generations. What will we teach our children? That the good is simply the expedient? That might is right? Or will we instill ancient virtues of integrity and respect, justice and humility? Should we not become a generation seeking excellence rather than decadence, empathy instead of amorality? Can we not resist willful ignorance to the lessons of our history, hoping instead that we might have any kind of higher-evolved future?

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Written by Ryan Corvidae

November 16, 2011 at 2:55 am

One Response

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  1. gonna have to check out this Dr. Manhattan. Seems like a moniker the OWS folks could use. It really is an astonishing miracle, that we’re here at all.

    David Ker Thomson

    November 19, 2011 at 7:15 am


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