December 19, 2017 · 4:28 pm
Watchmen has been on my reading list for quite a while, and I finally got around to it. I was somewhat concerned that the book would not live up to my expectations, but I am happy to say that it did. Now the challenge is what to write about it. There is so much that can be said about this deep psychological assessment of our society, with each character representing a modern archetype. I figured I would just talk about some of the book’s darker visions of society and where our society seems to be heading.
It seems to me that many people prefer to be blissfully unaware and ignorant of the future that appears to be racing toward us, and this sentiment is poetically expressed in the text.
Others bury their heads between the swollen teats of indulgence and gratification, piglets squirming beneath a sow for shelter… but there is no shelter… and the future is bearing down like an express train.
Later in the book, one of the protagonists, Rorschach, presents his dismal view of human existence.
Looked at the sky through smoke heavy with human fat and God was not there. The cold, suffocating dark goes on forever, and we are alone. Live our lives, lacking anything better to do. Devise reason later. Born from oblivion; bear children, hell-bound as ourselves; go into oblivion. There is nothing else. Existence is random. Has no pattern save what we imagine after staring at it for too long. No meaning save what we choose to impose. This rudderless world is not shaped by vague metaphysical forces. It is not God who kills the children. Not fate that butchers them or destiny that feeds them to the dogs. It’s us. Only us.
So we are presented with a meaningless world full of hatred, fear, anxiety, insanity, greed, and countless other social ills. Faced with such a bleak view, the next logical question is whether humanity is worth saving, worth fighting for. This is the question that the characters Laurie and Jon debate in the book. Jon initially does not believe that human life matters, but then changes his mind. When Laurie asks what caused him to alter his view, Jon explains:
Thermo-dynamic miracles… events with odds against so astronomical they’re effectively impossible. Like oxygen spontaneously becoming gold. I long to observe such a thing. And yet, in each human coupling, a thousand million sperm vie for a single egg. Multiply those odds by countless generations, against the odds of your ancestors being alive; meeting; siring this precise son; that exact daughter… until your mother loves a man she has every reason to hate, and of that union, of the thousand million children competing for fertilization, it was you, only you, that emerged. To distill so specific a form from that chaos of improbability, like turning air to gold… that is the crowning unlikelihood. The thermo-dynamic miracle.
(pp. 306 – 7)
This provided me with the light I needed to find hope in this dark vision of our world. We are surrounded by miracles. Every single one of us is a living, breathing miracle, whose very existence defies all odds. And this is something I will keep in mind as I continue through this journey.
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Tagged as Alan Moore, analysis, anxiety, archetype, art, artwork, books, comics, criticism, existentialism, fantasy, fear, future, geek, god, graphic novel, greed, hatred, humanity, insanity, metaphysics, miracle, modern, nerd, pop culture, psychology, reading, review, social criticism, society, stories, watchmen, writing
February 2, 2017 · 11:40 am
I enjoy the Hellboy Winter Specials because they contain several short vignettes that are usually very good, and this year’s is no exception. It is comprised of three short tales: “The Great Blizzard,” “God Rest Ye Merry,” and “The Last Witch of Fairfield.” While the last two were good and worth reading, it was the first one, “The Great Blizzard,” that interested me the most.
The premise of the story is that there is an unusually heavy and prolonged snow in England during the late 19th century, and Sir Edward Grey and Sarah Jewell are investigating whether the cause is supernatural. While walking through the bleak whiteness, Edward tells Sarah about similar occurrences that were supernatural in origin.
“In the north there are legends of Cailleach Bheur, the Queen of Winter who rules from Samhain to Bealtaine and summons the storms and snows at will. And there was Saint Bega in the middle ages, to whom a great lord offered as much land as was covered by snow the following morning for her priory. It being midsummer the promise would have been an empty one, had Bega not miraculously caused a snowstorm to fall that night.”
One of the things I love about Hellboy is that the writers draw on actual myths and legends as inspiration for the stories. I was unfamiliar with the references, but did a little research and easily discovered the details of the myths.
Legend of Cailleach Bheur
The Cailleach displays several traits befitting the personification of winter: she herds deer, she fights spring, and her staff freezes the ground.
In partnership with the goddess Brìghde, the Cailleach is seen as a seasonal deity or spirit, ruling the winter months between Samhainn (1 November or first day of winter) and Bealltainn (1 May or first day of summer), while Brìghde rules the summer months between Bealltainn and Samhainn. Some interpretations have the Cailleach and Brìghde as two faces of the same goddess, while others describe the Cailleach as turning to stone on Bealltainn and reverting to humanoid form on Samhainn in time to rule over the winter months.
Legend of Saint Bega
Bega is associated in legend with a number of miracles, the most famous being the “Snow miracle”, which is described in the Life of St Bega thus:
“Ranulf le Meschin (sic) had endowed the monastery with its lands, but a lawsuit later developed about their extent. The monks feared a miscarriage of justice. The day appointed for a perambulation of the boundaries arrived – and, lo and behold, there was a thick snowfall on all the surrounding lands but not a flake upon the lands of the priory.”
In addition to the quality writing and the references to mythology, the artwork is top notch, making this a graphic novel definitely worth picking up and reading.
Thanks for stopping by, and have an inspired day.
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Tagged as art, artwork, Beltane, books, Brìghde, Cailleach, comics, fantasy, geek, goddess, graphic novel, hellboy, inspiration, legends, miracle, mysticism, myth, mythology, nerd, pop culture, reading, review, Saint Bega, Samhain, snow, stories, supernatural, winter, witch, writing
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