Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Hope Spot #14 Lovecraft and Existentialism

I cannot leave Yog-Sothothery alone. It calls to me. It demands a response. But my response is not an affirmation of its statement. It can’t be. Cthulhu is slumbering in R’lyeh, waiting to arise from sleep and death. Nyarlathotep dances to the tune of a million flutes. Indeed, it may be claimed with certainty that in the epilogue it shall be said of our world that darkness, decay, and the red death held dominion over all, and of the coleopteran race to follow ours that this, too, shall pass.
But I am crippled from properly appreciating this, I think. I am an existentialist, and in my existentialism I look out my window and behold the passing away of all that I love and the imminent reign of the Great Old Ones, and yet… and yet still I ask myself whether I shall have my eggs fried or scrambled this morning. In my existentialism, I cannot escape the matter of life, even if it will one day come crashing down to nothing.
The Mythos demands a response, and so I say this: that the presence of these things, standing at either end of our lives like terrible wraiths, does not invalidate the moments between. If men could survive the concentration camps and speak, as did Viktor Frankl, of “the last of the human freedoms,” the ability to choose how oneself will react within the limits of one’s effective agency—then the war is over and was only ever a lie to begin with. It is no matter if Nyarlathotep stands outside, doorknob turning in his grip. The question still remains: How will you act in this very minute, no matter how few or many lie before or after it?
In other words, Azathoth is. This is not to be disputed. But no matter the fact of his existence, as terrible as it is, there still remains the matter of life: what you are going to do with whatever amount of days and minutes you have left to you. After the world ends it may be that as much will have come of helping your neighbor as would have come from sitting on the floor for the lights to cut out, but it nevertheless feels as though they are not equal in the moment that they happen. Rejecting any choice at all, simply because one day it will amount to nothing, is a special kind of cowardice.
“Existence precedes essence,” said Sartre. Cthulhu is waiting in R’lyeh, hungering for your soul, but that does not prevent you from choosing how you react. You may die in the fetal position or with your head held high, and if that is the only choice that can be made then it is all the more important for you to choose well.
With a philosophy of life that is founded upon existentialism, I cannot view Yog-Sothothery as anything but an elaborate and terribly entrancing form of the Absurd. It is for this reason that I find myself drawn again and again to Lovecraft’s Mythos in both my reading and my writing. All of my work in Lovecraft’s playground is based upon approaching it, not nihilistically, but existentially.

Any human who comes in contact with the Mythos must decide zir stance on suicide, and any human who decides that ze is against it must answer the question posed by Viktor Frankl: “Why have you not committed suicide?” If one has not killed oneself then there is a reason for this, whether great or pathetic, and it is in the space of these two moments that my stories play out.

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