The art of reading the right book at the right time

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”

509983I’ve always been a great fan of Lovecraft. I devoured all his stories when I was a teenager; in an age when teens typically rebel against authority and society I funneled all my natural anger on his world. I even wrote my high school thesis based on Lovecraft universe. So I’m a lovecraftian fan, but not your typical kind of fan though. No, I’m not an adept that prays for the return of Cthulhu from the depth of R’lyeh. Don’t worry. More like a scholar maybe. I love his way of looking at the universe, I love the hopeless cosmocentric phylosophy behind it. I agree with most of his statements regarding humanity, our place in the universe, the brutality of the cosmos itself, the non-sensical existence that we are experiencing with our lives. When you read and understand the deep implications of Lovecraft’s world you realise how stupid our everyday discussions, fears and anxieties are compared to the great horrors that lurk in the deep swathes of space. The only way is madness, says Lovecraft. Yes, I believe if we were able to get the very fabric of the universe our brains won’t be able to cope with it and madness will haunt us until our death. That’s why I think only the machines will be able to understand the universe, luckily they can’t get mad.

In a way I consider Lovecraft very similar to Epicurus: gods exist but don’t be bothered by them because they don’t interact with us. If you get too involved with their world you lose your sanity. Hence the only way for happyness in life is to live your ordinary life without peeking at the slightly open door. Don’t open that door and you will be happy. Ignorance is truly bliss. Sure Lovecraft didn’t believe in any god but his pantheon was more like a visual representations of the horrors of the cosmos and existence. A physics horror embodied in monsters of unimmaginable power and brutality. And by the way Cthulhu was not a god in any of the senses we consider a divine being. It was more lke an alien with such powers that could destroy entire worlds.

So yes, I consider myself a lovecraftian epicurean if that means that the universe is not by any chance anthropocentric, our existence useless and the aeons and spaces out there are impossible to grasp with a human mind.

Why am I talking about this then? The thing is I now got in my hands the omnibus volume of Lovecraft work in an english edition. I would like to read it again after so many years, now that I’m an adult, now that I experienced the truth of his teachings. And I’m scared and I can’t open it because I don’t know if I’m going to ruin all the magic that was dwelling in my mind since I was 15. I’m worried of ruining it and finding out that his writing wasn’t that good or his stories weren’t that original. What if his books must be read at a certain age only? I’m not saying that Lovecraft stories are for children, what I’m saying is that the fascination for the dark, gothic and horrors might not be the same for me after 20 years. And I’ll be disappointed. And he will fall down from my personal pantheon of writers. Maybe I shouldn’t do like the protagonists of his stories: tempted by dark knowledge they peered on an ancient book and they lost their mind. Maybe I should stay blissfully ignorant and keep the magic like it is.

5 commenti

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5 risposte a “The art of reading the right book at the right time

  1. Almost off topic: I just thought the same thing about Cowboy Bebop, but I chanced and I’m watching it again just in these days, and… it hasn’t let me down!

  2. Lovecraft was a genius, but his vision is too morbid, reeking of racism, homophobia and mysanthropism. I prefer Asimov’s or Vance’s vision.

  3. Kirbmarc

    While I agree that the universe is definitely not anthropocentric in the slightest, I strongly disagree about ignorance being bliss.

    I’m a big Lovecraft fan, too, but I think that the idea of secret knowledge that our brains cannot contemplate is a dangerous one. It stifles scientific development, it blocks social and individual change, all in the name of shielding humanity from the danger of madness, chaos, disorder, etc.

    I’m of the opinion that as humans we need to face danger. We need to peek inside the ancient book. We need to explore, to try to understand, to constantly improve and approach reality.

    Yes, there’s danger. But danger is better than intellectual laziness.

    Once upon a time human beings were deathly afraid of fire. Why wouldn’t they? Fire was a horrible monster that couldn’t be hunted or tamed. It devoured flesh, wood, grass. I couldn’t be touched, it could kill you in your sleep, it made you suffer. It was an Elder God for those ancient men and women. people worshipped it.

    I’m pretty sure there was an ancient Lovecraft who told amazing, horrifying tales about the horrors of fire.

    And yet eventually we tamed it. We learned how to control it. We used it to cook our meals, to keep us warm, even to power our engines and eventually kickstart our technological development.

    Humans were also scared of lightning, a scary enemy that killed based on chance and that unlike fire wasn’t even possible to somewhat keep under control. Lightning was the punishment of angry gods.

    People probably whispered terrifying tales of those burnt to a crisp by the anger of those unstoppable deities.

    And yet in time we’ve invented lightning rods, we’ve understood the principles of electricity and we’ve based our entire civilization upon it. Lighting these days is seen as a natural phenomenon, a part of life.

    Why shouldn’t this happen for the rest of the universe? Why shouldn’t human ingenuity and critical thinking eventually overcome the vastness of space and its scaringly sublime dimensions and events?

    The answer is that we’ve already started to do it. We’ve sent men and women in space. We’ve sent human beings on the Moon. The space is frightening in its immensity, but it’s also full of endless possibilities.

    Who’s to say that in time we wouldn’t be able to understand Cthulhu’s powers and channel them into something useful for us?

    Or, if we want to avoid Lovecraft’s metaphors, who’s to say that we, as human beings, won’t eventually master space travel and boldly go on to explore the vastness of the universe?

    Imagine human beings travelling from one side to the other of the galaxy. Imagine a human civilization which builds colonies among the stars. Imagine starships who carry equipment that can analyze supernova explosions, or a technology to funnel the power of the gravity of black holes.

    Isn’t this inspiring? Isn’t it a much better view of the universe than the limiting Lovecraft tales, or the resignation of Epicurus?

    We need to dare. We need to explore. We need to risk. If we die trying at least we’ve done something, we’ve started a path, we’ve opened a way for others to follow.

    Humans need to defy the gods. We can’t stop and shrivel into an apathetic existence just because it’s easier. Especially not us scientists.

    And I think that this also answers your question about Lovecraft. Maybe his works will still hold up and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Maybe you’re in for a huge disappointment, and maybe this disappointment will hurt you. Or maybe even the disappointment will be useful and will change your mind, maybe for

    The only way to know for sure is for you to read his works again.

    In general I think you’re a little too much of a pessimist. While this doesn’t make you necessarily wrong, it also doesn’t make you necessarily right, and sometimes you probably need to challenge yourself, to push your boundaries, to dare more, see more, do more. We all do.

    Man must explore!

  4. @ Hronir
    did you watch it when you were a teeenager though?
    @ rainbow
    his misanthropy doesn’t conflict with his phylosophy, actually one feeds the other one.
    @ Kirbmarc
    Maybe I didn’t explain myself well or maybe you got too far😉 but what I suggested didn’t involve the giving up of research in general. What I meant was that probably the ultimate equation of physics is too far from our comprehension, so we should rely on machines instead. The truth about the universe is so complex that can only lead to madness, hence the machine’s help:similar way to address the problems but inability to get struck by the consequences of the truth

  5. well, late teen age actually, maybe just turned twenty…

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