of course this is all to say I collected the droplets of blood in a little glass vial with a cork lid and added plant growth hormones to stop it from
it smelled horrible like all those times my dad made me go on long, awkward walks with him after it rained and the earth was wet and full of life and I tried to stop smelling it but it became
ritual to open the jar
again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again until the cork
and I had to do something with it to keep myself from throwing it against a wall or drinking it so I considered
But didn’t like the ramifications of littering my own blood-jar and burying things makes me very, very sad because I am terrible at letting things go so instead I dumped the blood in the river and I know that makes me a
Really Bad Person
Because now of course I cannot stop thinking about where the stream runs to and the final resting place of that water and how maybe I just
poisoned the entire world
With my own blood but I guess it will be filtered out if our tap water comes from that particular steam and my mom used to tell me about how when her dad died they spread the ashes in the ocean so I guess the fish drink enough death anyway but then humans eat the fish so I guess we also
consume our own rot
And I can’t help but imagine all the PETA pamphlets I’ve been handed after punk shows and then subsequently thrown them away and how terrible of a person I am for still eating
other being’s flesh
But when I tried to become a vegetarian it became so hard for me considering I can only afford to eat at my school’s one cafeteria which just reinforces that I am a
Really Bad Person
And also a quitter but my mom also always told me overcommitting oneself is dangerous and also that overthinking things isn’t going to solve anything and I think maybe she was right since my aunt always called me a worry wart which of course is to say a
Very Anxious Person
But it can be very rewarding to worry for example I always finish my homework on time and I usually try really hard but sometimes I think it would all be easier if I just didn’t try at all because then I probably would not be so concerned about where the fuck
my blood ends up
When I dump it into the river just to get rid of it so I can stop thinking so damn much about how fragile we are and how much we all bleed
Kate is from Mammoth Lakes, California, and currently resides in Salt Lake City, Utah where they are working towards a BA in English and an MA in teaching at Westminster College. Kate is a Virgo and lesbian who loves swing sets, their dog, and their girlfriend. Their work has previously been published or is forthcoming by Pressure Gauge Press, Write About Now, Rising Phoenix Press, and Rag Queen Periodical, among others. They are currently a poetry editor for ellipsis… Literature and Art. You can send Kate photos of the ocean on Twitter at @pasta_slut.
Do you ever wonder how people go from completely sane to wholly mad? Or, think about how each of us is equally exposed to the possibility of catching insanity every time we open ourselves to the outside world?
One of these answers can be found in the film In Mouth of Madness (1995) directed by John Carpenter. The film understands madness as “that thing [which is] messing with the church [values]”; “that thing that offers pain and suffering beyond human understanding.” Madness is an abstract being that “wasn’t here [in this material world] before l wrote it”, says the character Sutter Cane. The question is how this very abstract matter known as “madness” manifests itself into material form, and thus becomes viewable, spreadable, discussable, and perhaps “curable”.
Such a journey can be seen in the character John Trent, who has gone from a “sane” insurance investigator to a patient in a psychiatric hospital. Trent is one out of a number of people who show schizophrenic symptoms after reading Sutter Cane’s horror books, including the Hobb’s End Horror and In the Mouth of Madness. Books that are known for their success in generating a kind of seed of “madness” in the mind of a “less stable reader”. These seeds range from “disorientation, memory loss, to severe paranoid reaction”. Trent’s case is significant in that it may offer a potential clue to the outbreak of mass murders and riots in the city, which are claimed to only involve those who read Cane’s book.
At this point, it is safe to say that “madness” made its way to be among us by finding representation. “Homecoming instrument (s)” the film calls it. I would say that its first representation is in the mind of Sutter Cane. Then it manages to move Cane to write about his encounter with “madness” in the form of books. These books then could be considered as the second form of representation of “madness”. This second representation is special in that it signifies the presence of “madness” in the material world. With Cane’s books, “madness” is now viewable, discussable and spreadable to each individual. It will keep spreading until it achieved its fullest form, Hegel would say.
The fullest form of which every single being strive for is equal to life because it supposedly represents an achievement of completely being oneself, as Hegel implied in the Phenomenology of Spirit. What is often forgotten is that the way to the fullest form is violent and painful in that it constantly requires analysis of what one already achieved. In this analyzing process, the defective representation must be abandoned and destroyed, Hegel would further assert. Only by doing so, one can continue to find a new and better representation. In the case of this film, we can see that only when Cane [as first representation of “madness”] sees the book Hobb’s End Horror is not perfect, he then can proceed to write the new one, that is In the Mouth of Madness. This new book [and other new form of representation that might come later] supposed to be better representation of “madness” as it corrects flaws of the previous book. Thus, the quality of this new book is stronger than that of the previous one. The new book In the Mouth of Madness is so strong that it “will drive you absolutely mad; choked [you] with the gleaming white bones, the hideous unholy abominations, countless unhallowed centuries”, says the character Cane when persuades Trent to open himself for “madness”. Trent does open himself for “madness” and, thus, rendered as insane.
Trent’s case shows that the desire for self-examination, which “madness” inspires in whoever come in contact with it, is more challenging with human beings than with the madness being [the abstract matter called madness]. This is partly because human beings reflect social values. Identifying some of those values as “wrong” and abandoning them not only challenges the individual’s inner stability but also disrupts the stability of the society in which one lives. As a consequence, once society classifies a person as “insane”, the individual may find himself lonely and isolated, or he may even be killed for such apparent “deviation”, Berger warned us in his Sacred Canopy. There are plenty of examples of killing done on the basis of “deviation,” and one of them is the religious conflict involving the Ahmadiyya community. To anticipate such horrific effect of madness, society advises those who are infected by madness, like Trent, must be made named, isolated from the healthy society, and cured before sent back to society.
The film even prescribes that to survive the influence of madness, one must do what Trent did. ”He did not shriek. He stared into the illimitable gulf of the unknown. And refused to close his eyes”. He continually refused to subjugate his life to the power outside himself i.e. the influence of Cane’s book and the label “insane” from a medical representative. He does it by often announcing his self-knowledge that he is a rational, independent and happy man who has control over himself and that no one will have a chance to control his mind. In short, he fights madness by maintaining his ability to think for himself. Otherwise, madness will seep in and take control over his mind and dictate his body to do things he may not like doing.
The film is indeed very intellectually stimulating in that it not only portrays the origin of madness, but it also alludes to the insidious violence inherent in the transformation of knowledge. The film shows that knowledge transformation is violent because it requires the potential receiver to first destroy what he already knows before this new knowledge rests in their mind, a Foucauldian would say. However, such violence is mostly tolerable, if not acceptable, in almost every society. Why? Because such insidious violence, like the kind that Cane’s book generated, represent “senseless, seemingly unmotivated acts of violence”, says Trent. Only when it obviously threatens the life of the larger society, as in the form of a riot, will the power representatives act. Again, the key to survive both the violence inherent in the madness and in the transformation of knowledge is to maintain the ability to think for oneself.