In the face of the growing horror gripping our world today, all meaning is in danger of being lost—a danger felt most keenly by the younger generation: “What’s the point?” Meaning is lost when all connection to the imagination is severed—through trauma or neglect. In fact, horror is the final experience, before shattering, when the imagination is faced with an incomprehensible appearance. As our current horror deepens, matters of truth and reality become hugely complicated by the furious refusal in the mass media to countenance this horror—to face up to its reality. We get of course the usual standard gestures of “o my!” or the stern warnings, or accusations, interpretations, (we have a new monster, or Hitler etc.) But as well as this usual highly packaged media content, we are inundated with something else, so easy to miss, almost impossible to understand.
News programs, “reporting” on Ukraine—that’s the present content of the news—are also producing high drama. We are getting previews to the news, like a movie preview; we are getting breathless commentators cutting in with “news breaks” only to disappear again; all this to heighten tension, anticipations; we are getting background music to heighten the drama—dark, menacing music accompanying new reports of horror. We fight horror by making it into a movie, or production for the shivering audience. News has become (for some time) medial presentations to entertain us with horror scenes. Exploding into our living rooms is not the very real horror but a horror production. Scenes are carefully edited so as to arouse but not shatter the feelings of the audience. They are looped to numb us. The rhetoric of horror is appropriated for the purpose of getting us to watch more. For example, in Australia, the eastern seaboard is being inundated with a deluge of rain—devastating to so many people. And I heard that the storm is coming our way to Sydney. But what exactly did I hear? I heard the meteorologist say that a rain BOMB is coming towards us. He paired a natural event with Ukraine! And sure enough I felt my anxiety grow as I waited for the moment when it would explode on us. I nervously watched the latest updates on the weather pattern as the menace approached. I became free of this anxiety only when I “caught” the rhetoric working on my imagination.
We have the latest real horror destroying the lives of millions in Ukraine and at the same time we have a real produced horror movie penetrating into living rooms throughout the world. This produced virtual horror excites and alarms us while numbing us against the presence of physical horror–the kind Ukrainians are facing now. Physical horror and Medial or Virtual horror are not the same realities and most of the world is being shaped by the production of Virtual horror! How can this complex phenomenon be understood?
There are now many individuals speaking of the end of one world (our technological civilisation) and the birth of another. We are at a cusp, a turning point (“catastrophe” means a turning down). But it’s less clear what contours this “new world” is taking. Many people simply put that question off into a utopian future, or offer generalities that are drawn from the past. But a new world is upon us now, taking form within the current horror. We can get hints of this world if we know where and how to look.
We need, as never before, to gaze into contemporary works of art, and yes I mean even the artistic productions of current news programs. We need to gaze in a very particular manner—-that of the soul phenomenologist. Can we perceive underlying, concealed/revealed movements of soul that suggest the coming reality? My blog has been running for many years now and is:
devoted to a study of modern cultural phenomena such as contemporary art, movies, books, plays, politics, news, social media, science, etc. My essays are a little different from the ordinary style of most reviews. For me, cultural phenomena can open up and become psychological phenomena, windows to the unknown future, thereby presenting hints of implicit background movements as yet unborn. I give voice or form to these movements in the service of welcoming the unknown future. In this way we can begin to see how potential futures are unfolding into the present through the manifold faces of our traditional cultural practices.
In 2016 I wrote an essay Virtual and Physical Reality: chaos or the birth of a new reality (included in my book Anomaly). It is my attempt to get closer to the soul movement underlying such weird phenomena such as the mass media’s role in taking up real world events and making them into “art productions”. The mass media thus unwittingly becomes a “mouthpiece” for the emergence of a new reality into actuality, but as you will see, this emergence or eruption into our lives is dwarfing any present horror because we simply furiously refuse to open up to its insistence.
I subsequently discovered a relevant book by a Heideggerian scholar. It addresses the weirdness of Being, in our epoch: