Empty World

Some number of years ago now, I remember witnessing a filmic representation of something written by Charles Bukowski, its title eludes me.  This was perhaps characteristically, miserably bizzarre and featured some peculiar and wicked strand of thought concerning a discovery that the narrator was the only real person and everyone else he encountered were soul-less, automotons with gnashing teeth and venal, base desires, feeding, copulating, functioning mindlessly, aggressively and selfishly.  This particular narrative was simultaneously disturbing and entertaining and itself thematically resonates with the patrons who metamorphose into lizard people in the bar scene in the film of Hunter S. Thompson‘s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas featuring, Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro.  These dramatic representations are clearly paranoiac alcoholic fantasies and in at least one case also self-evidently inspired by powerful psychoactive chemicals but the center of the stylistic horror seems to lie in the notion that at the heart of human being and psychological subjectivity, what we might call “selfhood”, is nothing or at least something essentially primitive and much less sophisticated than we would all prefer to believe.


These authors had represented this rank emptiness and moral vacuum as a horrific and frightening nightmare reality. It may be that it could only emerge with such fearful overtones when arriving as a fictional message conjured from the booze-sodden mind of a brilliant yet dysfunctional author.  That the moral and logical uncertainty of an unravelling psychological subjectivity should arrive as a threatening harbinger of insanity and chaos may also represent some sort of inevitability.  In this particular instance I have clearly cherry-picked two specific instances of the narrative and cinematic representation of a very particular kind of psychotic fantasy but a value of art, all art, is in its capacity to be used as a kind of thematic springboard from which to leap into the void of our own existential depth.  There is a certain predestination in the arrival of horrific symbolic representations of this class of existential emptiness and psychological void which, in personal or cultural contexts, can be expected to perhaps only be able to appear to us wearing various of the masks of death; as zombie, madman, ghoul, dictator.

However, the acknowledgement of the message of a deconstructed, unravelling and insubstantial foundation to the architectures of self and society does not need to be a negative or fearful experience.  We should not be at all surprised to find that the processes and functions of psychological and cultural creativity and construction are in a constant, resonant orbit with those opposite forces of entropy and dissolution – this represents, among other things, the copulatory embrace of Eros and Thanatos, opposites bound in reflexive, mutual interdependence and reflexive cross-reference.


Those unsavoury facts of death and decay remain unalterably buoyant and when repressed from individual or collective (i.e. cultural, social) consciouness, they are bound to emerge elsewhere.  I have found myself elsewhere reflecting upon the potential inevitability of the emergence of fearful narratives or collective internecine acts of horror where consciousness, a mysteriously nebulous construct in any reckoning, and here necessarily undifferentiated as individual or collective function or process, is through it’s activity and self-definition attempting to shore up it’s perimeter against the ravages of time and the trend towards entropy.  I have also elsewhere investigated the notional object-relations and pseudo-topology of emptiness and emptiness-of-self in a systems theoretical framework in which any one system (or, for that matter any self) is so deeply, irrevocably and intimately intertwined with its environment that the notional perimeter or boundary of this system encapsulates a set, sub-set or sub-system of internalised iterative system/environment boundaries, replicating endlessly.  It may even reveal itself from all of this that the process of recursive iteration and internalised self-replication of system/environment (self/culture, mind/world, subject/object, whatever) differences and boundaries precisely is the thing which is being replicated.  The process of system/environment self-replication is itself that which is being replicated; this represents a general function or algorithmic axiom of self/culture resonant dichotomy.

The thread of thought which initiates itself in a fictional artefact of psychosis, suggesting the inevitability of symbolic violence and horror, and then finds itself discovering that this instilled fear is a teleological, perhaps on the grandest stages of drama – eschatological, necessity and product of its own desperate grasping at concrete boundaries and definitions of psychological completeness; this is reason enough if accepted even only as partial or aspirational truth to understand the unrelenting crisis of self that the world represents.  The endless horror and conflict of this world which we might otherwise relatively happily subject ourselves to when sanitised as entertainment, mediated by ideology or interpreted through the plausible narcosis of faith – this is in essence a Crisis of Self.


A narrative consciousness whose circumference and function is temporal and directed by the exigencies of memory and a procedural experience of time may be unable to fully acknowledge considerations that the Self (as individual or as culture) is an entity being simultaneously built and dissolved.  The deeper reflections of a self and human world totally void of independent identity or separation, of a self composed of multiplying negative and subtractive spaces and internal logical queries without concrete substance or non-derivative individuality – this is both disconcerting and cathartic.  The tangles and knots of internal psychological subjectivity which compose the self are really in their own pure existence essentially nothing – these are emergent complexities almost as though of pure mathematical spaces or logical implication.  The reality of this experience of self-ness or of culture remains an experiential fact but the substance of this self, or of this culture, reduces to the emptiness and void already prefigured by the object-mysteries of Cantor’s Dust or a Sierpinski Gasket.  The system of self and culture evolves and changes, metamorphoses and grows precisely because this fundamental incompleteness is captured, enigmatically within its own gravitational field.  Just as in the way matter curves space and space provides the most probable vectors for matter to move in accelerating motion along those curves, the self (individual or collective) warps the symbolic, gestural, lived world around its own internal mental processing and provides the possibility for growth and the probable vectors of history and shared existence, the stage of experience.


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