The absurd scares me

12 Nov

Absurd: having no rational or orderly relationship to human life :meaningless <an absurd universe>; also : lacking order or value <an absurd existence>

I don’t feel that definition of absurdity really covers what unnerves me. I guess I would add “levity in a grave situation.” I’m not talking about dark humor, I’m referring to something more sinister, something Marquis de Sade would come up with. The feeling I am trying to convey is a bit hard for me to articulate, so perhaps if I point to some examples:

In the movie “The Pianist” there is a scene where the Jews in the ghetto are waiting for their turn to cross the street and the Nazi guards force them to dance at gun point. The song is very light hearted and happy, and here are these starving people condemned to death being forced to dance for the amusement of their killers.

In the BBC’s Masterpiece theatre production of “Casanova” there is a scene where Casanova comes across a love (I think it might be Henriette, but I’m not sure) who is holding a ball in a town that is about to be destroyed by a volcano. Casanova want’s to get out of there with the woman, but she just laughs giddily and says “We’re all going to die!” with a wide grin on her face. Casanova’s son Giac then proceeds to have sex with a woman he knows is his sister, all while ash is raining down onto the town.

I find this type of stuff most often in war films and holocaust films. People know they are doomed and so they go insane, creating a situation that is the exact opposite of what they are going through; like having a celebration with decorations right before you’re about to die.

Another scene that sticks out in my mind is the bridge scene from Apocalypse Now. Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) comes to Do Lung Bridge to find what can best be described as a chaotic hell. It is dark, people are dying, things are exploding and burning all around them, nobody is in charge, and yet there are party lights strung around the place. People are acting as if everything is normal, listening to the radio, ignoring the fact that death and destruction surround them. (This was my first brush with the absurd when I was young and it stuck with me)

Absurdity also shows up in some of the video games I play. There is a memorable sadist scene in bioshock where a man is forced to play the piano in a costume and when he fails to meet his torturor’s expectations he is executed:

Currently I’m playing Fallout 3: New Vegas which is set in a futuristic 1950’s post-nuclear apocalypse America. There are plenty of absurdities around the game like people wearing funny costumes while murdering each other. The entire world has fallen apart and some people try to carry on the whole 1950’s middle suburbia mentality.

There is a particular song that I think ephitimizes this 1950’s conservative  white suburbia housewife feel:

So what scares me about this absurdity? Well, for me it has some what of an addicting power. It’s not the same addicting power of knowingly wanting more of something, like a drug, it’s more subtle than that. I feel sometimes that I need to fight giving into absurdity. I feel like if I come in contact with too much I’ll loose my sanity and start seeing the absurd everywhere. I’ll be infected and sucked down into the absurdity well that leads to surrealism, nihilism and ultimately suicide.

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