I am grateful for the flash of lightning and the crash of thunder; the ghostly hauntings, the prophetic ravens, and the skeletons found deep within closets--all remnants of Gothic tales we read late into the night, indulging our seemingly perverse pleasure for dread. These bursts of darkness remind us that terror is a real force in our lives. It mirrors the trauma and violence that afflict us when we stray from our paths, compromise our instincts or become exposed to the hurtful intentions of others.
But the real Gothic is in the everyday, made all the more terrifying for its seeming normalcy. It is in the unexpected shudder we get after shaking hands with what seems like a perfectly normal acquaintance; her shell is intact, but inside, something is not quite right. We acknowledge this cringing feeling deep down even as we are afraid to violate social niceties and voice it. It is in the goosebumps we get when we enter a home not our own. We can feel the years of day in, day out that the walls have absorbed, the history of the family ingrained in the beams that give a room its shape. Take, for example, the picture perfect home that reveals its truth in the coldness and emptiness you feel when inside those stuccoed walls as if the spirit of the place has infected you with the emotional disconnect of the family. It is haunted by the unspoken words and muted feelings of its inhabitants.
This uncanny energy is also found in waking up in the middle of the night for no reason. There in the silence and darkness is the whisper of things you haven't been willing to see--and then, the tick-tock of the alarm clock that you never wind, but still somehow finds the strength to remind you of the passing time late at night when no one else is around to hear.
But most of all we experience everyday gothic in our relationship to others. Far more terrifying than things that go bump in the night and monsters hidden in shadows is the dark seed nestled behind the breastbone which some are tempted to nourish. Evidence of this foulness are like puckered scars marring the skin of human experience. The flash of the envious evil eye directed your way through a passive aggressive comment, a proverbial hex; the consistent energy drain and doubt you experience after talking with a supposed confidant, a psychic vampire; the collective pressure to numb yourself out to your inner voice, zombie infection. And the true evil is still deeper than that: it is the ease with which we see this psychological violence as normal. It is so seductive, so easy to ignore wickedness--in ourselves, in others--and drown our instincts in the soothing balm of a sugar-coated world view that suppresses the full spectrum of human understanding.
This world is made up of dark as well as light and only in acknowledging its darkness can we be the candle flame that chases away the gloom.
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