Some Notes on Monstrousness

Elisa Gabbert and Kathleen Rooney


Every monster is a little bit cute. Could cliché be the best way of getting at truth? Epistemology of kidding on the square?

In the early 14th Century, "monster" meant "a malformed animal or human, a creature afflicted with a birth defect," and came from a root word meaning "to warn." I'm arming you with knowledge to lessen your fear, but I'm scared myself.

The summer sky's suggestion of the infinite is monstrous. Then there's that cumulus that looks like a dragon.

As civilization disremembers its classical heritage, Medusa, Charybdis, and Hydra might rise as popular names for baby girls.

Surveys show children think monsters are purple or green. Maturity brings the understanding that monsters can be both good and evil, and that evil does not require a cause. One wants to accept cultural relativism while allowing for certain true, objective evils.

Something is amiss in the natural order. Or, more accurately, there is no natural order, just various orders that are variously amiss.

"To Each His Chimaera" wrote Baudelaire. But the term chimera has come to describe anything perceived as wildly imaginative or implausible. Even from dreams, we wake.

As a child I preferred to sleep with the closet door open -- one less place for the monsters to hide. Still, if the sleep of reason breeds monsters, what does insomnia breed?

Who is "history's greatest monster"? Such questions fill me with a glittering ennui. But we must ask them, and stare at each other in the silence afterwards.

Some people are so beautiful, their beauty seems monstrous, fatal. A horrifying symmetry.

Nietzsche said "...throw roses into the abyss and say: 'here is my thanks to the monster who didn't succeed in swallowing me alive'." We need monsters more than they need us. But who are we, and are we monsters for our aestheticization of disaster? Or is disaster all there is, and aestheticization a way of coping?

Dusk makes the sound of mortality, rustling as it approaches. Best to ignore that.