David Gemmell: Fate and Redemption

‘Only the Chosen One can claim the Armour.’ – Orien the King 

The first time we meet Dakeyras, the Waylander – the killer, slayer, assassin he has just stepped from the shadows to face five men who have stolen his horse. These five men will die, and the man of shadows will be faced by another predicament, a priest of the Source. Is this an encounter of chance or destiny? What are chance and destiny in such a world of death and destruction? The man himself, this Waylander, whose history is one of vengeance, revenge, and assassination lives in a world of shadows where no one and nothing is trusted, a man alone, unconquered, and yet outside the social nexus of the common world of men. Does the man have a soul? Does he feel as other men feel; or, is this shadow man one of those whose inner life has become so numb and empty of its humanity that the notion of caring no longer enters into such thoughts. All rhetorical questions that will be answered over a series of novels that challenge both reader and author to explore the notion of the anti-hero: the man who does not belong, the man outside the law. Continue reading

Souls of the Singing Dead

Souls of the Singing Dead

Marius Schneider (1903– 82), the Alsatian musicologist and ethnologist observed that in the indigenous cultures where music is still used as a magical force, the making of an instrument always involves the sacrifice of a living being. That being’s soul then becomes part of the instrument, and in the tones that come forth from it the ‘singing dead’ who are ever present with us make themselves heard. He’d heard that in times of war and conflict the dark powers of the instrument were called forth, and the singing masters of the wood would call to the daemons who would scatter the enemy in fear and trepidation. Others that at night in the depths of the great forests the night demons would be brought forth to ride the winds and howl among the tents of the sleeping enemy infecting them with such fear and dread that the men would kill each other till all were dead.

Legends of the Makers: Musical Instruments through the Ages

Thought of the Day: On Language…

When a man is born…there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight. You talk to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to fly by those nets.

—James Joyce

Without language, no thought; yet, language is an impersonal, collective and objective system of attached meanings sponsored over time (i.e., has a history). We are all immersed and limited by our specific ties to language. Does this mean that those who acquire other cultural referents, languages outside the cultural, social, and civilizational milieu think different thoughts; and, will these thoughts transliterate and translate between cultural referents? Or, are we bound by our linguistic limits to the socio-cultural boundary markers of our inherited forms? If so, then math is the only language impersonal enough to be unhinged from any specific cultural referent; thereby insuring its continued valency and impartial transcultural ascendency from all reductions to a socio-cultural and political-ideological system of meaning.

Should we seek a transcultural natural language as well?

On the Weird…

“Here is the hopeless despair of one haunted by the night.”
– Mark Samuels, The Age of Decayed Futurity

What’s always fascinated me by weird tales is the seeming entrancement by supernatural events as a sort of temptation. Why? Because most horror is written by atheistically or skeptically inclined authors, who for the most part neither believe in such events nor in the religious meaning conveyed by such beliefs. What is this attraction for outmoded forms of human experience? Do we seek to revive the animistic gewgaws of shamans and sorcerers? Explore the darkened environs of the undead and the monstrous night? Travel into those edge lands, the liminal spaces where imagination and reason switch places and the world begins to tremble with a life other than we know? What if the world is not as it seems, that all the mythical and legendary personages of our ancient ancillary thoughts existed; were more real than reality? What if the unreal worlds of ghosts and zombies, vampires and werewolves; monstrous creatures from the depths of sea or infinite black space were but a unqualified abstraction away? What if horror itself were an abstraction that portended more concrete experiences which those who seek to master in their own fears and dreads could no longer abstain from? If one were to look in the mirror one day and see the very image of fright staring back at one out of the mimicry of one’s own visage… then what?

I’m not a religious man, yet…

I’m not a religious man but I’ve always loved the sentiment of Paul in this passage:

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.”

We humans are a deluded lot. Some of us know it, others deny it. The universe as science and nihilism teach us doesn’t give a shit about our loves or hates, our hopes or desires. It is absolutely indifferent to our human wants or needs. Yet, that is it, isn’t it: We know this, and we also know that all meaning we impose on this indifferent universe is a delusion; and, yet, without these feelings of love or hate what would we in the end do or be? In the end we need our delusions, our dreams, our madness. Otherwise we might as well as the extreme pessimists suggest end it all in a grand bonfire of suicidal war to the last creature. But there is something in us that dissuades us from such extremes, something that brings us to laugh at our own inanity, our comic fatalism intact. Even now as bad as it is on this planet – and, it is bad and we all know it – we still need the simple day to day feeling of loving and being loved. It’s what gets us through the day… without tears or laughter what would we be? Zombies or psychopaths…. mindless, gutless manipulators of life-in-Death without end.

We see that in our so called leaders, in the right-wing morons that shed nothing but crocodile tears that mean nothing, who gloat and steal from the poor and oppressed to give to their rich Oligarchs and corporations at the expense of the people. One turns an eye toward history and sees it is the same now as it has always been in this world. Sadly. And, yet, the simple truth of those of us at the bottom of the emotional heap still trudge on and care and love and feel for people the best we can. It has always been that way, and always be. Compassion is all that remains… the memory of one who gave a shit, who cared, and loved. Nothing else remains, that’s why those who seek power, those who oppress will vanish forever from memory….

On Pessimism as a Sublime Failure

Quite different is the sway of the Demiurge: how, in his absence, would we face our ordeals? If we were equal to them, or even worthy of them to some degree, we could abstain from invoking him. Before our evident inadequacies, we cling to him, we even beg him to exist: if he were to turn out to be a fiction, conceive our distress, our shame! Upon whom else would we vent our failures, our miseries, ourselves? Appointed by our fiat the author of our deficiencies, he serves as our excuse for all we cannot be.

—E. M. Cioran, The New Gods

More and more I’ve seen pessimism as just one more form of optimism in sheep’s clothing, since it writes “about” suffering, pain, death, etc. more as a defense system against these things rather than as any form of truth-telling or revealing about the human condition per se. Hell even Peter Wessel Zapffe, presumably the bleakest of pessimists, according to Thomas Ligotti came to the conclusion that all thinking, writing, etc. was just a ploy, a distraction from actually living death out in one’s being. From the beginning Schopenhauer’s philosophy was a mere gloss on Kant, a way to assuage his own mortal failures and pains for not being recognized as the great philosopher; so instead he spent his life disparaging all those others… a mere distraction from his own incessant failures. All pessimists, so called, have followed this path of failure. Cioran being the epitome of such thinkers having perfected it in life and thought – failure as a absolute program.