Tag Archives: catharsis

“The Wicked Monk” by Charles Baudelaire

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Old cloisters, on their mighty walls, displayed
In tableau, scenes of holy Verity
Which warmed the pious entrails and allayed
The chill of cenobite austerity.

When the seed of Christ flourished long ago,
Many a monk, of small renown today,
Using the churchyard for his studio,
Glorified Death in all simplicity.

My soul’s a tomb which, wicked cenobite,
I wander in for all eternity;
Nothing embellishes these odious walls.

O slothful monk! When shall they learn to make
Of the live pageant of my misery
My hands their labor, my eyes their delight?

(translation by Barbara Gibbs)

This is an extremely dark sonnet where Baudelaire contemplates the darkness within his own consciousness. In the first two stanzas, it sounds as if he is criticizing the Church and the monastic order; but by the time we reach the third stanza, it becomes clear that the monk is a symbol for his introspective thoughts, silently analyzing the darker aspects of his soul, or psyche. With this in mind, the first two stanzas take on a different meaning.

A tableau is “a group of models or motionless figures representing a scene from a story or from history.” Considering that this is a self-reflexive poem, the cloister then represents the poet’s memory. The scenes depicted on the walls are memories that he cannot escape, since the truth of these memories is clear to him. And these memories cause anguish, because Baudelaire cannot deny the dark aspects of his being. One must admire his level of acceptance to embrace that part of himself that he finds repulsive, “odious.”

Although the past is dead, Baudelaire is still trapped within the tomb of his memories. He continues to relive the misery of his past, forever contemplating the hidden parts of himself, silently, as a monk, pondering how his soul became so corrupt and diseased.

I cannot help but wonder if Baudelaire was going for the cathartic experience when he wrote this. I get the sense that he wants to be free of his inner monk, to step out of the dark cloister of his past and bask in the beauty of the sunlit world.

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Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Issue #4

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Black mass, cannibalism, necromancy, bullying: this is without question one of the darkest comics I’ve ever read. But it is not just shock for shock’s sake; it is truly a well-crafted story with layers of complexity. Reading this is like rending open the darkest regions of your psyche and confronting those aspects of humanity that we all want to avoid.

Having witnessed Sabrina’s participation in a Satanic ritual, Sabrina’s boyfriend Harvey is horrifically killed and blame is placed on some neighborhood youths. Sabrina begins the process of trying to deal with the psychological torment that plagues her, knowing she is at least in part responsible for what happened, and having to lie to protect herself.

I think we have all done things which haunted us, which is why this comic is so damn visceral. It’s not the events; it’s the emotion that one relates to when reading this. And it’s not a comfortable emotion. But it is important to face your demons and experience the catharsis that results from doing so. This comic will challenge you emotionally and psychologically. You’ve been duly warned.

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Alice Cooper: Issue #4

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This may be my favorite issue so far in this series. Alice travels into the realm of nightmares along with Bart the bully in search of Robbie. As with most bullies, Bart is cocky and arrogant, pretending not to have any fear; but as Alice points out, everyone has fears, and it is when you are asleep that your deep, dark fears surface from your subconscious.

You don’t know the first thing about fear. Not the deep, burrowing kind that give rise to nightmares, anyway. You make somebody afraid enough, you build up a balance in that account. You make them start to contemplate things… It happens unconsciously, at first. They start to fantasize alone, when you’re finished making them afraid. That’s when you realize…that the true power in what someone’s afraid of…is how they use it. You’re a tough kid, Bart. But everybody sleeps. Everybody dreams. And everybody is afraid of something. Which means we all have our own, private… nightmares.

The issue continues by exploring the psychology of fear and how fear manifests in nightmares, all done in conjunction with darkly rich and macabre illustrations. It also touches on bullying and how the victims of bullying can turn to the dark side.

Reading this had a cathartic effect. I was bullied as a kid and I could relate to those feelings of fear, which turn to resentment and anger. I’m also no stranger to nightmares and have had some intense ones over the years. But there is something exhilarating about nightmares. When you awaken, sweating and shaking, you also feel stronger for having stared your deepest fears in the face.

Thanks for stopping by, and keep on reading!

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