What’s the meaning of the universe? What’s the meaning of a flea? It’s just there. That’s it. And your own meaning is that you’re there. We’re so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget that the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what’s all about. People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.
At the outset of space exploration in the 1950’s, scientists were concerned about the psychological effects of leaving Earth on astronauts. Initially concerned with various psychoses and anxieties, they have been exceedingly begrudging in allowing the astronaut any sort of autonomy. The initial diagnosis for the state of mind of an astronaut’s realization of being in space was called the deadly rapture of space and space euphoria. While out on space walks, astronauts tended to ignore earth-bound commands. Now with plans for a journey to Mars in its early stages, concern for something new is being raised – called the Breakaway Effect or Earth-out-of-View Phenomenon. This theory postulates that, once free of any physical sense of this planet – most notably sight – humans might lose their connection to those left behind. In other words, the further away they get, the less likely they might care about the place they left behind. A future Martian? Or a Citizen of the Universe?
(*Information derived from Mary Roach’s “Packing for Mars”)
Each of us has the plague within him; no one, no one on earth is free from it. And I know too that we must keep endless watch on ourselves lest in a careless moment we breathe in someone’s face and fasten the infection on him. What’s natural is the microbe. All the rest – health, integrity, purity (if you like) – is a product of the human will, of a vigilance that must never falter. The good man, the man who infects hardly anyone, is the man who has the fewest lapses of attention. And it needs tremendous will power, a never-ending tension of the mind, to avoid such lapses.
Werner Herzog reflects on his 1977 film Kaspar Hauser:
I had a seven-minute-long sequence between Kaspar and an impoverished farmer in the countryside. The farmer in his despair had killed his last surviving cow. It was a very intense and beautiful scene, but somehow disrupted the flow of the story. It meant that the audience would have to take some time to get back into the story once the scene was over. So I threw it out even though it was one of the two or three best sequences I had shot. I am not speaking here of the mechanics of the story. It fit in the story and it made a lot of sense when placed in context of the story of Kaspar being pushed into the world around him. But there was something about it that disrupted the flow of the film in terms of how I felt the audiences would receive it; they were detoured too far, and the return journey would have been too arduous. In such a case, as I work for the audience and for no one else, I had no problem throwing the scene out.*
(*From Herzog on Herzog, Interviews conducted by Paul Cronin.)
Being alone isn’t a bad thing. Not at all. It’s actually good. It’s a time to collect thoughts, reflect and be and all of that. It can even be reveled in.That said, it’s not good to look alone, when someone is likely to approach with the dreaded words, “Oh, you look so alone.”
“I look alone? Really? Well, I am. We all are, don’t you know?” What’s wrong with staring off into the distance? Why must standing apart be seen as a telltale sign of depression? What is so bothersome about being alone?It’s sure as hell better than having to listening to someone else chatter on. “Can you give me a couple of bucks? I lost my bag. They took everything.”
Peter Fischli & David Weiss’ 1983 film The Right Way features their mascot icons Rat and Bear journeying through the Swiss Alps. Rat and Bear drift through caves, glaciers and swamps, less a representation of the world as our fears, hubris and inability to focus.Like Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, Rat and Bear dally with a primal essence that comes out in moments of loss, confusion and incongruous observations. Their aimless path drifts from the brink of death to congratulating each other on being at the top of the food chain to trying to kill each other, caricaturing the men inside the outfits.
Whatever sense can be made of Rat and Bear, I do wonder how much it might damage a child to see and hear any of this.