Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I Seek Refuge in Darkness...

... and impending doom, but said doom is seldom forthcoming.

When I read the work of Theodor Adorno, I took it to heart. "Auschwitz" became my watchword and the measure of all things. Of course, "Auschwitz" was itself just a cipher, a stand-in for Nazi horrors which didn't seem so much to repudiate 2000 years of Western Culture, as represent it's inevitable trajectory. Auschwitz was the Apocalypse, in the original sense of Revelation. It revealed an essential truth and the baleful glare of its light robbed everything that came after of all meaning and reality.

For me, Auschwitz became a kind hammer. I used it to reject and destroy anything that seemed comforting or affirmative as naively trivial or criminally frivolous. On the other hand, works of art or fiction that were disturbing, unsettling, or even cruel were redeemed by their mimetic approximation to the Holocaust. The serene, albeit inhuman, warmth of Mark Rothko's paintings, for instance, served as a kind of metaphysical valium drawing a veil over void, while the jarring and panicked post-punk of Saccharine Trust, or the macabre austerity of Joy Division, on the other hand, held up a mirror to human brutality and froze its nauseating topography in colours drawn exclusively from the palette of the abyss.

Now, of course, I'm more apt to see this morbid focus on humanity's "darker angles" as a kind of a cop-out. I wasn't living in a death-camp or being driven from my home or seeing my children murdered before my eyes. I was a privileged kid from suburban LA who cavalierly flaunted mankind's malevolence as a badge of hipness. Acknowledging the abominable suffering of others, not just in the past but right now, today, a suffering that the people I grew up around seemed intent on avoiding, denying, or down-playing, was a step towards maturity, clarity, the truth. But lingering there, was not, is not.

The first of the Four Noble Truths states, as I understand, that "suffering is really happening." But that's just the first truth. The Truths go on to acknowledge a cause of this suffering, the possibility of suffering's cessation, and, most importantly, the way to bring suffering to an end, not just for you, but for all sentient beings.

Enlightenment isn't about insisting that things suck, it's about hunkering down and dealing. Or, to quote the Beastie Boys: "Darkness isn't the opposite of light, it's the absence of light."

I want to turn on the light and, as Pigpen used to howl with his alcoholically unbridled passion: "... LEAVE IT ON!"

1 comment:

Giordano Bruno said...

hip hip hip ... hip priest... i am lucky to have lived this life where adorno meets saccharine trust with you, mein freund. it sure beats being a fellow traveler or an internal exile. and guess what? on the way out of suffering, whether extreme or of the "quiet desperation" type of the denial-oriented types you refer to, comes great compassion. tonglen tea time.