Sunday, September 17, 2006

Six degrees of zombification

My friend Tucker recently demanded that I get addicted to his new blog:
Not the old dumb blog, but a new dumb blog.

It's not very good and it has nothing to do with Jesus... but... It's Got Videos!
Nothing to do with Jesus, eh? Well, what does it have something to do with? Could it be, oh, I don't know... SATAN??

Anyway, I dunno if I'd say I'm addicted, but I kinda liked this post about the edifying nature of horror:
I find that realistic outlook on the world common to many horror films to be exemplified in the thought that, the world was not built for us to live in (and, for matter of that, the world for which we are adapted might be other than the one in which we dwell). Thus, to my eye, horror films come as an antidote to a certain form of anthropocentrism, which I believe to be not only common to our outlook but perhaps even intrinsic to it. That form of anthropocentrism takes for granted that our way of living is well suited to the world and will continue to be so. Horror films like Night of the Living Dead deprive us of this assumption, insofar as we find, quite suddenly, that our world is not what it used to be, or what we thought it was. In the process of showing the attempt to adapt to the new situation, the flaws in our current ways of living come to light.
I can go along with that.

I wonder if Freud ever got a chance to see a horror flick. The concept of horror, as conceived above, seems more or less identical to the the concept of anxiety as Freud understood it. Anxiety is the feeling you get when you have to respond to an experience that violates your most fundamental preconceptions. These are the preconceptions that you bring into every experience, according to which you give that experience a meaningful place in your life: your own personal "paradigm" (to use a word that doesn't really mean much any more, but sounds pretty good). What causes anxiety is an experience that breaks your preconceived notions so utterly and terribly that you find yourself incapable of making any sense of the experience at all, incapable of giving it any meaningful place in your life at all. So, to make sense of the experience, you have to create some new ways of understanding your relation to the world--ex nihilo, on the spot--and that takes a lot of work. (Sometimes too much work. Freud thought that, for many people, a central organizing principle of psychological development is: to avoid dealing with anxiety. This is problematic. An honest confrontation with reality necessarily produces anxiety from time to time, so to avoid dealing with anxiety is to turn away from reality. What Tucker calls "anthropocentrism" in his post is a form of this.)

The connection between horror and anxiety is hinted at in the translation of one of Kierkegaard's books. The title of this book is sometimes translated The Concept of Anxiety, and sometimes The Concept of Dread. (The original word in the title is "Angest", which is the Danish cognate of the German word "Angst", which is what appears in the original title of Freud's Problem of Anxiety. Neither of these words have very much to do with the English word "angst", which has a rather different meaning: it denotes an attitude characterized by routine, habitual expressions of emotional frustration, which functions as a rather clever way to avoid dealing with "Angst" proper.)

Anyway, back to this idea that the blog has nothing to do with Jesus. Tucker, you fool! Everything has something to do with Jesus. As established above, horror is basically the same as anxiety. But anxiety is connected with original sin, and original sin is why Jesus is so important. Now, I would go over the connection between anxiety and original sin, but this post is already too long. Also, I'm making that claim on the basis of the blurb on the back cover of my copy of The Concept of Anxiety, which I haven't read yet, so I basically have no idea what I'm talking about. But zombies totally have something to do with Jesus (and not just because he got up and walked around after being dead for three days).


Tucker said...

I was, of course, implicitly trying to stalk vaguely existentialist/Husserlian-Heideggerian themes in the post about horror, and to the extent that I talk about this anxiety business, it's from Heidegger. But (Q) where did Heidegger get his tropes about anxiety?
(A) Where else? Kierkegaard.
Methinks we both have some reading homework to get to (in my case, however, not until 2035).

As far as Jesus and zombies go, how could I forget the connection? It couldn't be stronger, really.

Toby said...

Like I said, I really have no idea what Kierkegaard said about anxiety, but apparently I've been unwittingly reading some of his ideas into Freud. (Since I've been getting a lot of my Freud from Lear, this is not implausible.)

I suddenly wish I could have a T-shirt that reads "Jesus is not a zombie".