“The universal condition of mankind,” said novelist John Fowles, “[is] a state of loss.”
To which the equally penetrating Günter Grass returned: “There is a mania to call the lost thing until it returns.”
The lost thing, which undid humankind eons ago, lives in Arctica. In you. That country far of purple twilight, where icy waters mirror the stars, and ghosts of amnesia drift forever like sirens of the sands. Trauma fronts freeze the air, raising curved walls into the gloom, isolating residents until—with a howl—heated dreams melt exits. Later (hours . . . years?), everyone gazes through mineral shatters of ice against the stars, indifferent suns in a fathomless universe. Starving, parched, they pluck fragments from the ruined walls and eat. Nothing but an acid tang, like the blackest cloves and melancholy.
Tomorrow, they won’t remember anything.
Like ambiguity errors in software code, they will forget who they are. Nameless ciphers wandering a plain of enigma whose sands are jagged with fantastic traceries of machines. Hulking corrosion scoured silver by winds . . . ambient music for a trillion years.
The residents of Arctica, rigid with depressive panic, will haunt themselves until the next day. And again. Calling and calling . . . watering shifting sands with amnesiac tears. Wailing for meaning. For the lost thing they once felt on a sunny day of wine and love.
“There is much more mystery in the shadow of a man walking on a sunny day, than in all religions of the world.”—Giorgio de Chirico
Keith Emerson, of the great progressive rock group Emerson, Lake & Palmer, recently died. This terrible reality brought into sharp focus just how much of a force and presence music has been in my life—especially the kind labeled as “Prog Rock.” Exemplars other than ELP include King Crimson, Genesis, Yes, and a few others. The darker side of this would cover electronica/trance-master Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream, and other bands associated with so-called Krautrock. This music has inspired me for decades, fueling my passion for creativity, exploring the unknown, and a sort of gloomy rebellion. Now, of course, rebellion is nullified by its corporate commodification—a product for sale. The only course is to follow one’s obsessions, and build worlds from these with self-contained ecosystems. In short, cultivate your soul. Don’t let culture create you. Create your own culture, explore, and return with artifacts.
Of equal importance was/is the art of H.R. Giger, who fused biological and mechanical (hence “biomechanical”) in his disturbing, erotically-charged work. He made symbols functional. Most of you will know him from his astounding visualizations as seen in the movie Alien (1979), and Aliens (1986). But Giger’s work extended far beyond media, and continues to influence architecture, industrial design, fashion, and music. He is described as having been (contrary to what many believe) a soft-spoken, gentle man, and a very generous host.
The point of all this is that certain branches (or spectra) of music, art, and literature resonate through general culture. It’s up to the observer what to do with this. In my case, I found there exists work darker even than my own nightmares and personal fears, and that the creators behind this are drivers of further inquiry, creation, and ultimately add more blood, sweat, and tears (to coin a phrase) to the collective myth pool that makes life bearable.
I thought I had serious problems until I encountered the fictions, and the Brutalist philosophy, of Thomas Ligotti. In my opinion, he is the unparalleled visionary master of dark literature.
With these creators in our lives, Arctica once in a while becomes tolerable. Life might be howling with annihilation and nothingness, but those can be harnessed, recast, and tossed back into the face of the void.