Tag Archives: Nosferatu

Thoughts on “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace – Part 9

Nosferatu

Nosferatu

As a musician, I have always been intrigued at the way sounds and rhythms can be used to stimulate parts of the subconscious mind and cause hidden aspects of the psyche to surface. I believe this is why chanting and drumming are integral parts of ritual, the goal of which is to alter the consciousness of the participants.

There is a great passage in Infinite Jest where a recovering addict is sharing an experience he had where he was playing violin and the notes blended with other vibrations resulting in a sudden shift in his consciousness. This shift allowed a dark, primordial aspect of his psyche to surface, an experience that was terrifying and traumatic.

‘The direction of flow is beside the point. It was on, and its position in the window made the glass of the upraised pane vibrate somehow. It produced an odd high-pitched vibration, invariant and constant. By itself it was strange but benign. But on this afternoon, the fan’s vibration combined with some certain set of notes I was practicing on the violin, and the two vibrations set up a resonance that made something happen in my head. It is impossible really to explain it, but it was a certain quality of this resonance that produced it.’

‘A thing.’

‘As the two vibrations combined, it was as if a large dark billowing shape came billowing out of some corner in my mind. I can be no more precise than to say large, dark, shape, and billowing, what came flapping out of some backwater of my psyche I had not had the slightest inkling was there.’

‘But it was inside you, though.’

‘Katherine, Kate, it was total horror. It was all horror everywhere, distilled and given form. It rose in me, out of me, summoned somehow by the odd confluence of the fan and those notes. It rose and grew larger and became engulfing and more horrible than I shall ever have the power to convey. I dropped the violin and ran from the room.’

(p. 649)

In this scene, the addict experiences the emergence of what Jung termed the shadow.

The shadow, said celebrated Swiss psychiatrist C.G. Jung, is the unknown “dark side” of our personality–dark both because it tends to consist predominantly of the primitive, negative, socially or religiously depreciated human emotions and impulses like sexual lust, power strivings, selfishness, greed, envy, anger or rage, and due to its unenlightened nature, completely obscured from consciousness.

(Source: Psychology Today)

Throughout my life, I have experienced instances where music or sound caused my consciousness to shift, sometimes dramatically. But it can be particularly unsettling when the shift is unexpected. It’s one thing to experience this while meditating and actively seeking to unlock hidden realms of the psyche, but when it occurs for no apparent reason, it can have a devastating effect on a person.

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Wraith: Issue #1

Wraith_01The other day I went to the comic store to pick up the latest issue of The X-Files comic, but alas, its release was delayed a week. Wanting to support the local store anyway, I perused the shelves looking for something of interest and spied the first issue of Wraith. I had read that comic aficionados were excited about this and I have to admit that I was intrigued by the cover, which hearkened back to the horror comics I read as a kid. I also found the license plate to be quite punny (NOS4A2 = Nosferatu). I asked the store owner what he knew about it. He told me he had not read it yet but planned to, since the writer was one of his favorites (Joe Hill also wrote Locke & Key). I decided to give it a shot.

I found this comic interesting and I think it has potential. The comic is based on the metaphor of the road, which represents psychological pathways. Be warned—it is a very dark road that is taken and this is definitely a comic for mature readers. The protagonist, Charlie Manx, recounts the grim story of his childhood to a frightened young girl who is his passenger on the road. He recounts how his pain, suffering, anger, and disillusion led him to seek escape from reality by speeding down roads, which symbolize the pathways to the darker regions of his psyche.

For a time, I went to sleep inside and learned to dream through my days. Not that it made me one lick happier. Every dream I dreamed—all those other places I’d never see, other women I’d never hold, other lives I wouldn’t live, other roads I’d never drive—was another bitter sip of poison.

Manx discovers that he has the power to transform his dark dreams into reality. It is almost like creative visualization with a macabre twist.

If you can dream a thing, then it has a kind of reality in your thoughts. And if you dream hard enough, and you have the right vehicle—a vehicle you really love, a part of yourself—you can slip right out of reality and into that other, better, imaginary world, where the only reality is the one you allow.

The Wraith is Manx’s vehicle for escape—a black, gothic, antique Rolls Royce which carries him along the highways that meander through the darker realms of his consciousness.

Although Manx is a sinister character, you cannot help but feel some empathy. He was abused, he suffered, and he reached his mental breaking point where he had no place to turn but into his own mind for escape. Under the right circumstances, any one of us could snap psychologically and barrel down the road in an attempt to escape. But the sad reality is escape is really just another illusion. There is no place in our minds, no matter how deep or dark, where we can completely escape from ourselves.

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