Allure Of The Extreme
It was something about the allure of the extreme. I had an appetite for weirdness and wonderment and monsters and saints, and the extremes. And I think — I was raised in the suburbs. My parents were very strict, highly ordered and disciplined, so my life was that way. Now, it was safe, and it was good on some levels, but it was also very boring to me. I thought — Samuel Beckett says in Waiting for Godot, “Habit is a great deadener.”1 And even as a child, I sensed that deadening effect of habit of routine, and we mow the lawns on Saturday and we do the stuff like this, too much safety.
So, somehow between these medical books and Ripley’s cartoons and my own reading going into other centuries and worlds with stories, but I learned that you could venture off to exotic places. Maybe you could cure a terrible disease. I wanted to be a doctor for a long time.2 Perhaps you could overcome death with science. So, it’s just drama, it was drama, the bizarre and the extreme. And I also think it makes — the shock of the extreme makes us feel more alive, and it’s also nice to go back to the safety and the orderliness after — I mean why do people love thrillers and murder mysteries, and strange facts?3 They’re always on the internet, the strange and the bizarre. We have a human appetite for those things, I think.
But I also, at the heart of it, I — that question of “Was life this cruel? What is the cruelty of life?” Why am I being harmed, Simone Weil said that, she’s a friend of Albert Camus, and why — the great question in life is why am I being harmed?4 Why are things not perfect? But yeah, seeing life as — I went through a whole period of being a hypochondriac? And I would have the Merck manual under my bed, and I would read about diseases and I was psychosomatic, so I could imitate those diseases. And I would run to my mother and say “I think I have cancer of the brain. I have these symptoms.” And luckily she never took me too seriously, and those set of symptoms would go away, and then I’d get another.
And then gradually I replaced the Merck manual with religious — Catholic religious pamphlets written by nuns, and religious paraphernalia. And my mother was very anti Catholic at that point. Having been raised Catholic, she was actually livid about the Catholic Church. And she married my father who was an Episcopalian, and so she was excommunicated and told that her children would be going to hell. And I mean yeah, it was back in really one of the worst eras of Catholicism. So, I had my secret love affair with Catholicism under the bed. I had beads and veils, and I don’t know, I was very strange. And I think I was trying to replace the fear of death with the hope of immortality or mystical visions or — because I write a lot about spirituality and metaphysics in my work, as well as sexuality.5