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NUM-INOUS COMICS PT. 2

This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Monday, April 8, 2013

THE BASE LEVEL OF CONFLICT

God degenerated into the contradiction of life . Instead of being its transfiguration and eternal Yea! In him war is declared on life, on nature, on the will to live! God becomes the formula for every slander upon the "here and now," and for every lie about the "beyond"! In him nothingness is deified, and the will to nothingness is made holy!-- Nietzsche, THE ANTICHRIST.
 
I've often stated that the "combative mode" is one that must be situated within the total spectrum of all possible permutations of the principle of conflict, which is, in turn, congruent with the nature of the Schopenhaurean will.  That said, some expressions of conflict in the *microdynamic* level of dynamicity are so adumbrated that something like Harvey Pekar drinking lemonade is practically a Kirbyesque battle-scene.

Case in point: Ray Bradbury's 1951 short story for ESQUIRE magazine, "The Last Night of the World,"  reprinted in the paperback collection THE ILLUSTRATED MAN as well as being one of the tales adapted for a 1969 film of the same title.  In this very short tale, a man and wife have a conversation in which they realize that not only have both of them have dreamt that the world will soon end, but that everyone else in the world has had the same dream.  Neither they nor anyone else panics at the impending and inexplicable onset of extinction; it's simply something everyone in the world accepts.

Wherein, then, lies the conflict?

Though Nietzsche's invocation of a "will to nothingness" has a very different context, the "base level of conflict" here invokes a similar willed acceptance of extinction.  In the minds of some if not all readers of the story, there will be the expectation that if humanity were faced with an "end of days," it would be an occasion of great tumult, of "raging against the dying of the light."  What Bradbury's story offers is, in keeping with the literary audience to which it is directed, is a triumph of the "will to nothingness" against all the audience's expectations.

I will further note that this essential approach is one of the commonest bag of tricks in the history of "canonical art" fiction.  Non-artistic approaches to momentous occurences-- be it as great as the end of the world or as private as an ilicit love-affair-- focus principally upon what I have called *the kinetic,* which is oriented on reproducing strong sensations in various combinations. In response to this tendency, aspiring "artists"-- both good and bad-- tend to take the opposite approach.  If the reader expects a bang, give him a whimper.

This is a natural enough evolution.  It only becomes problematic when art is defined by this ironic device, rather than considering it to be merely one of many arrows in art's quiver.





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