Dread and Loathing the 3 a.m. Duckling that Never Turned into A Video Blog

I had all of these notes typed out earlier today for a video blog. But then, I started to record and I just couldn’t do it. It’s ironic, because the blog topic was / is on dread. And I will record it, soon. I will.

How dread can both hinder and help us along in our creative process. Or any process which requires a deep-searching, a chance for truth.

I got the idea from

a) feeling anxious about performing my monologue tomorrow

b) a conversation with a friend about being anxious in general about both stepping out of my creative comfort zone added to the pre-existing writing struggle

and

c) just like always, some hand of Fate or Coincidence had me reading a book on Wittgenstein on the train the other day. But specifically the section of the book pertaining to Heidegger and Kierkegaard’s writings on Dread. “Dread is the possibility of freedom.” How a man must strip himself of all socially re-enforced pretensions and illusions he harbors about himself. “Learning to dread is an adventure”…how we must free ourselves from the comforting reassurance from the crowd.

Now, why Dread? Dread is that deep-searching. The springboard for it. And the dread of ourselves, our power. Of failure (which must lead to success if we allow it) and other such things one can face before creating and recreating oneself. The binoculars for truth, or something of the sort.

I also got a bit into Gregory Bateson, the usual stock of writers, waiting to chime in when I am feeling down.

I kept scribbling these notes, knowing that I should have been preparing for my monologue…knowing the Dread is dancing with newly painted shoes. Knowing my body wasn’t just a lump of something, but a entire circuit board, waiting to be lit up by dread.

And so, I bring in a poet, too. Two poets. Rilke and Muriel Rukeyser. Oh, my usual crowd of books. Sitting at my computer, I can hear people way back in the peanut gallery of the bookshelf, saying:

Shannon! No one has original ideas! Let us help you find what you want to say!

Even Dante* needed Virgil

*Sidenote. I recently read that Dante may or may not have had some sort of seizure disorder. Either that or he was just mildly psychotic. Love them poets! Love the neuroscience books that tell me such things!

So, yes. Rilke.

What could he throw into the conversation?

I chose this, among his other chimings, specifically because he uses the word “dread.”

“I realize with a sense of dread that one grows numb with regard to even the most wonderful things when they become part of one’s daily interactions and surroundings”

My notes after this quote read:

–Shock us out of the everyday, not in strangeness, but in newness, in that cracking electric feeling that makes up the edges of things when a novel, often strange and uneasy sense passes through. Like ghosts from a world we’ve forgotten, dread is a gift that we don’t quite have the eyes to see or the neurons to understand.

And so we need this in the realm of the unfamiliar–but with that comes apprehension, naturally.–

What I mean, and what I hope to show is that this need for the unfamiliar is exactly what that “Dread” provides.

As far as Rukeyser, I was able to gather a few tidbits from her book “The Life of Poetry”–

“The fear that cuts is off poetry is profound: it plunges us deep….

Then, for the first time you wonder: what should I be feeling? instead of what am I feeling?”

(The second statement particularly parallels well with Kierkegaard and Heidegger’s Dread in that the fear of the dread “causes us to be cut off from large parts of ourselves and we believe ourselves less and less.” (Rukeyser) )

Dread breaks those defenses down. Breaks us until we are able to once again ask, not the socially appropriate “what should I feel” but, rather, the independent, Dread abiding “what AM I feeling?”

Rukeyser continues:

(Keep in mind, there’s a difference between fear and dread, at least according to the examples given by Heidegger and Kierkegaard)

“What is the fear of poetry? To a great extent it is a fear produced by a mask, by the protective structure society builds around each conflict.” (Life of Poetry)

The mask is our social-norm-mentality. Dread forces us to move past this. To, as the previous example said: “free ourselves from the comforting reassurance from the crowd” (Kierkegaard)

So, my fear of Dread has been keeping me in a holding pattern. Dread swoops in and gets to the root of things, doesn’t it? A painful getting-to-know the self by, ironically, forgetting the ego. Who do you write for, someone keeps asking me in my head of heads. Who, not the New York Times, not even my lovely professors, but for me, for you, You. That’s a scary thing. Not that one refuses suggestion, exploration, learning…but that one strives to be accountable to the highest of standards….the Truth of the Self.

So, the dread is allowing the self to be the self. The dread calls for this. Honestly? If performance is for the “crowd” then the mask never need be taken off.

Dread keeps me up at 3 am writing this. Is there a purpose?

I read this, before sleep, which compelled me to write all of the above….

“Uneasy, uneasy, uneasy–
Why?
Because–when opportunity gives you the obligation to create, you are content to meet the demands of the moment, from one day to the next.
Because–anxious for the good opinion of others, and jealous of the possibility that they may become “famous,” you have lowered yourself to wondering what will happen in the end to what you have done and been. How dead can a man be behind a facade of great ability, loyalty, and ambition! Bless your uneasyness as a sign that there is still life in you.” (Dag Hammarskjold, Markings)

Uneasyness = Dread.

Dread, such a brown little ducking, waddling around like it’s a swan…perhaps, soon, it will be your most beautiful fowl. (Ha! did I just create a pun?)

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