Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Horror! The Horror! I dare not describe it...

When we talk about Lovecraft in my house, the title is usually the first thing to come out of Becca's mouth: "The horror! The mindbending, soul-rending, madness-bringing horror! I dare not describe it! You would go mad with the knowing, and I would go mad for the retelling!"

Yeah, well, okay, H.P. Lovecraft had his faults. He was a rabid racist, he favored the archaic style of writing, he couldn't write female characters, and he was a tad fervid with his use and choice of adjectives. But he had some neat ideas.

One idea in particular, he stole from Robert Chambers: the concept of a work of literature that contained ideas so bizarre that reading it could drive you crazy. Lovecraft reworked this idea into something slightly different -- namely, that "sanity" was simply the failure to understand the true nature of the universe, and that upon knowing and understanding the true nature of the world, yourself, and your place in it all... you'd snap, and go hopelessly fruity-gumballs on the spot.

Of course, in Lovecraft's fiction, this was because as far as intelligent life was concerned, we were on the short end of the scale, and the universe's other inhabitants were gigantic, alien beyond belief, and as far beyond us as we are from the termite.

I think this is probably pretty pessimistic. It is my understanding that there are other people out there, many of whom are better looking than I am, richer, more talented, and leading much more interesting lives. Nevertheless, I don't feel my own grip on my sanity slipping any. Perhaps it is simply that I do not fully comprehend how rich Bill Gates is, or how good looking Timothy Dalton is, compared to my poor self.

I wonder: if a termite could fully understand what a human is, would he go insane? And how would anyone know?

1 comment:

  1. "Nooooo! The entire totality of my existence involves eating the house of a being evolved totally beyond my ability to comprehend it!"