June 28, 2012

From "The Adventurous Heart": Terror

Another short appetiser from the forthcoming publication of The Adventurous Heart: Figures and Capriccios from Telos Press:

Terror - Berlin 

There is a type of thin, broad sheet metal that is often used in small theaters to simulate thunder. I imagine a great many of these metal sheets, yet still thinner and more capable of a racket, stacked up like the pages of a book, one on top of another at regular intervals, not pressed together but kept apart by some unwieldy mechanism.

I lift you up onto the topmost sheet of this mighty pack of cards, and as the weight of your body touches it, it rips with a crack in two. You fall, and you land on the second sheet, which shatters also, with an even greater bang. Your plunge strikes the third, fourth, fifth sheet and so on, and with the acceleration of the fall the impacts chase each other closer and closer, like a drumbeat rising in rhythm and power. Ever more furious grows the plummet and its vortex, transforming into a mighty, rolling thunder that ultimately bursts the limits of consciousness.


Thus it is that terror ravishes man — terror, which is something altogether different from dread, fear, or anxiety. It is sooner related to the horror realized on the face of the Gorgon, with its hair on end and mouth opened in a scream, whereas dread more senses than sees the uncanny and for just that reason is shackled by it the more strongly. Anxiety lies yet distant from the limits and can maintain a dialogue with hope, while fright . . . yes, a fright is what is felt when the first sheet rips. In a deadly plunge, the screaming drumbeats and the glowing red lights then intensify, no longer in warning but as an appalling confirmation, all the way down to the terrifying.

Do you have any idea what goes on in this space that we will perhaps someday plunge through, the space that extends between the recognition of the downfall and the downfall itself?

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