Surviving Bleakness

The Nightmare Factory by Thomas Ligotti

“I wanted to believe that this artist had escaped the dreams and demons of all sentiment in order to explore the foul and crummy delights of a universe where everything had been reduced to three stark principles: first, that there was nowhere for you to go; second, that there was nothing for you to do; and third, that there was no one for you to know. Of course, I knew that this view was an illusion like any other, but it was also one that had sustained me so long and so well — as long and as well as any other illusion and perhaps longer, perhaps better.”

—Thomas Ligotti

My greatest love, my Lady and my Light, Linda Marie died on this day in the year 1999 which left an empty hole in my being which I know will remain unfilled for the rest of my life. It was just after this that in my ghost and zombie phase I ran into the work of Thomas Ligotti’s Nightmare Factory. I don’t even know why I picked it up in the local drugstore. The blue cover with all the bleak figures seeming to be as lost as I was in this tormented world of desire awakened something in me, a slight stirring of dark revelations at hand, something that might if even for a moment alleviate my strange torpor. I must say I engulfed these stories over one long weekend. They spoke to me from somewhere deep within, awakened those dark fires that haunt us all, left me bewildered and even more estranged and alien than I was already. And, yet they seemed to say things I was already thinking about life and my own existence and experience. His works would become immersed in my rereading’s of Schopenhauer, Bataille, Land, Cioran, Lem, Dick, Ballard, Twain, Vonnegut, Shakespeare, Borges, Pessoa and so many others… In Ligotti I found a questioning being, a being tired of the same old round of optimistic shibboleths that are tossed about by the self-help gurus and metaphysical clap track of sunny days and reasons why life is so grand and magnificent. No. I was done with that. The one thing that had given my life any meaning at all was lying six feet in the ground because of the viciousness of humans. I’ll not go into that. Ligotti opened up that dark world like a torrent and yet he gave it the stamp of an aesthetic appeal rooted in horror of both self and others, of this thing we are conscious beings aware of our (in)existence. This alone should send us all to that brink of suicidal madness, but it doesn’t; instead, it offers us art, the excellence of time-bound discipline in the oldest form of survival on this planet – the thought of a thinking being in the face of an inexplicable mystery. Ligotti’s insight was to look at the Medusa eyes wide open and live… that is, if you can call this life – Life.

I remember even as a child I began separating people into the artificial imbeciles – the bots with their cheery smiles and optimistic outlooks; and us others, the tormented beings like myself, who knew all too well that the world and the universe were hell and we’d been caged in its darkness, trapped by its alien agents of despair to live out a life of utter hopelessness. The only thing that helped me bluff my way through this bleak existence was my ability to make people laugh: the comic nihilist par excellence. I probably don’t let that out too much here. But in life when faced with all these sleepers, these happy bots roaming around the periphery of one’s existence what else do we have?

5 thoughts on “Surviving Bleakness

  1. I’ll mourn with you on this somber Day of the Dead.

    Surviving Bleakness stands out for me, even in the company of all your brilliant writing and philosophizing. Bleakness is not the disease itself—instead, it’s the specific autocatalytic jump which activates the survival mode. Bleakness is the cure.

    When you feel bleak, you are on the other side of despair. It must be the leanness of despair, its clean , sure lineaments, its ascetic rawness.

    Bleakness is the zone of survival.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ligotti was this for me too — I think it was while finishing Teatro Grottesco, something just clicked, I could almost literally feel the molecules falling into place in my brain, forming the thought as it happened. And I knew I’d never be the same again. The thing is — his work was a revelation for what was always felt and lurking in the back of my mind, my suspicions about the world, about life, freewill/determinism, “meaning,” etc — but I could never quite articulate it. Ligotti pulled back the curtain on something I’d embraced long ago without entirely realizing it.
    Let me also say, there’s nothing more depressing than optimistic claptrap — for the very reason that it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny and the overbearing weight of this horrible optimism all around us makes us feel we’re going insane. That’s why I too find some solace at least in Ligotti, Pessoa, etc. and for the first time in my own attempts at writing, which have helped me to order my own thoughts to some degree.

    Liked by 1 person

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