Once Upon a Midnight Dreary

The other day the boyfriend and I were talking about why people like us are drawn to dark things, whether it be creepy movies, artwork, music, clothing, etc. Sometimes my parents stop and wonder how they could spawn a child like myself. Certainly they appreciate the occasional scary movie but don’t understand my preference for black clothing (I’m their one-hued-wonder), gothy makeup, music tastes, macabre literature, and morbid art. If it’s not genetic, where did it come from? There has never been a deeply dark, depressing time in my life where this affinity began. I’m not saying I won’t wear, appreciate or listen to anything that’s not “dark.” There is plenty of music, art, and clothing I enjoy that is light, cheerful, and colorful. But if you give me the choice, 9 times out of 10 I would choose something eerie and twisted. Let me add that I do not enjoy violence, hatred, extreme gore and negativity. I feel I am a positive person and find great joy in making others laugh. I’m nice, polite, and cordial.

Theory One: Admiration for a particular individual shaped my future desires. Let’s go back in time to when this all started. It’s not like I was born and immediately began clamoring for black toys and clothing. I grew up as a normal girl who did have tomboy tendencies but overall, still liked cute and colorful things. I even went through a Hello Kitty phase. I enjoyed listening to dance music, electronic stuff, classic rock, and alternative rock. Actually the first CDs I purchased were Backstreet Boys and Spice Girls. I shopped at Abercrombie and Fitch, American Eagle, and Old Navy.  Fast-forward to high school: I encountered an unusual girl who kept to herself in my creative writing class. I really admired this girl, and I don’t even remember her name right now. I was a sophomore, she was a senior. She stood out with her dark clothes, black lipstick, and raven-shaded hair that fell mid-waist. I enjoyed hearing the stories she wrote (of a darker nature, of course). On occasion she would wear a TOOL band t-shirt and I eventually went and checked out the band. At first I hated the music. But it grew on me so much and I believed it to be quite beautiful, so I purchased all the CDs and became obsessed with the band for many years. I went on to check out similar music. After mystery girl graduated from high school, my interest in darker things continued to grow and evolve as I matured and refined my tastes.

Theory Two: Personality type could be the culprit. There is no doubt I am an introvert, although I have random bursts of extrovertedness. I tend to enjoy spending time alone, in quiet solitude. I can keep busy for hours, too. I often daydream about ghoulish matter. I love a gloomy, rainy day. Most often in the past I’ve been described by others as “weird,” “creative” and “quiet.” I like to reflect upon dreams and explore my thoughts and feelings. I take great pleasure in walking and wandering alone outdoors. I’d rather spend time one-on-one or with a small group of friends, versus a large party. I have honestly found that others who I know to embrace darker things tend to have similar personality types, although there are exceptions.

Theory Three: Author Martin Lastrapes, who writes dark fiction, said something which I agree with as someone who enjoys reading and writing dark subject matter: He mentions that people are consumed by death. “The fact that we are mortal, that our time here is finite, haunts us daily.” He goes on to add, “The entertainment is the catharsis involved, the ability to give ourselves over to our greatest fears in a safe environment where we know we’re not going to die. This point, I believe, is also true for why I write dark fiction, as it gives me an active role in working out some of my own deepest, darkest fears, exorcising them on the page and leaving them to haunt the imaginations of my readers. And while I hope to live a long, healthy life, free of brutality and violence, I will continue to watch films by Wes Craven and David Cronenberg, I will continue to read novels by Chuck Palahniuk and Ron Currie, Jr., and I will continue to write stories that explore the darker side of our humanity.”

Theory Four: The turning away from Christianity. I am fascinated by Occultism, specifically anything to do with witchcraft. Although I was raised as a Christian, I stopped going to church long ago and following those beliefs. I felt like an outsider and never was completely comfortable in that environment – and I really and truly tried (church service, church camps, youth group, Confirmation, baptism, and a myriad of other church activities).  I’m not interested in becoming a Wiccan, I simply enjoy reading and learning about it. But perhaps being involved in the Christian religion for so long, feeling like an outcast and growing in my skepticism made me want to rebel and turn toward a pagan religion that embraced magick and nature, and all that goes along with it.

Theory Five: Am I angry or sad about something deep inside, and choose to express myself on the outside with these feelings? Kind of like Lydia Deetz, “My whole life is a dark room. One big dark room.” I do find myself sad about many things – and it’s one reason I don’t watch the news. Most of the content is so depressing. I hear about big news through others since word travels fast. When I ponder about our planet and the state of things, there is much to be sad about, but I try not to dwell on it and do what I can to make a positive impact. I have had a few relatives pass away during my lifetime, as have most people my age. Nothing that wasn’t expected, though. I do feel “low” from time to time about health problems and what I’m going to do in the future, especially career-wise.  I both fear and fancy the thought of becoming a lonely old spinster who just has cats for company. A quote from Jo March in the book Little Women might sum my future up perfectly: “An old maid, that’s what I’m to be. A literary spinster, with a pen for a spouse, a family of stories for children, and twenty years hence a morsel of fame, perhaps; when like poor Johnson, I’m old, and can’t enjoy it, solitary, and can’t share it, independent, and don’t need it.”

As for anger, I do harbor some. I feel like I could use a break. A break from the health problems, and a break from work. By work I don’t mean working – I mean my current job versus my career aspirations. The motivation to achieve my writing goals is often lost once I get home from my day job. I don’t care to sit in front of the computer and write once I get home, after already staring at a computer screen for 8 hours. My eyes and mind are drained. Perhaps it’s time I physically take a pen and write on paper, although I’m spoiled with the act of typing…letting my thoughts flow out almost instantaneously and being able to quickly delete and edit. Have to keep that money flowing, though – car payments, medical bills, and all that fun growing up stuff. I can’t just quit, move back in with my parents and work entirely on writing. And if I quit and lived off savings while trying to make money with writing, well that would be a big risk and not very smart. So woe is me, and I will continue to suffer and be miserable until I can think of a way to transition fully into writing, and heal myself from various ailments.

Are you drawn to dark things? Why do you think that is? I’m interested to hear from you.

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5 thoughts on “Once Upon a Midnight Dreary

  1. Honestly, I think your reason may be all of the above theories combined, not just one of them. I relate to all of those in my own way. While I may not necessarily be as outwardly as “dark” as you, appearance-wise, I don’t think I can argue that it isn’t there internally. I’m more of a simpleton in how I dress, but I do wear a lot of black, navy blue, and grey shirts, shoes, jackets, etc., pretty much on a regular basis since my early teens. I’ve never tried to look dark and morbid. Those are simply the colors I’ve always felt most comfortable wearing, which I’ve recognized for a long time as being quite depressing. Ha. I like plenty of light-hearted, fun, non-depressing things, as well, but like you described in Theory Five, my mind is often focused on the overall gloom and and seemingly eminent doom of the world as a whole. I think a lot about the direction humans are headed in. I hate to even say I’m pessimistic or cynical. I’d rather just say I’m a realist who sees things for what they really are, which also relates to your fourth theory. I was raised Christian, as well, and I, too, started thinking for myself and eventually distanced myself entirely from it. I just couldn’t ever feel what people were telling me I’m supposed to feel or believe what they were telling me I need to believe in order for my soul to be “saved.” It just never made any rational sense to me, whatsoever. To be honest, one of the absolute darkest times in my life was when I was living with a close friend’s parents for a while who are Christians, and I started beating myself up, internally, over not understanding why I couldn’t see things the way they did. It almost killed me. When I finally accepted that it was okay to believe what I really wanted to believe and realized that just because someone tells you you’re wrong doesn’t mean they’re right, I started coming into my own and feeling better about myself. What’s really most important? I think being honest with yourself is most important, not faking your way through something to make others happy. I’m sure I’m a disappointment in their eyes and somewhat in my own mother’s eyes because of my views, but I’m proud of myself now for learning how to think for myself. It may seem “dark” to them, but I just feel like I’m being more realistic and honest in my ability to acknowledge that maybe we’re not at the center of the universe. If we’re doomed as a race, then so be it. Christians believe the world was created for them, around them, and that they are ultimately the most important thing in existence. I believe the exact opposite, that this world was here long before us and will be here long after us, that we came about by circumstance, just like every other lifeform before us and that we lucked out on becoming the most advanced form of intelligence we know of so far. I think our intelligence and self-centeredness may ultimately be our demise. We’ve lost touch with the planet, the very thing that gave us our sustenance and are now destroying it to the point of no return. This is a pretty fucking dreary and depressing outlook, but it’s the god damn truth. Christians seem to not care about the environment, because as far as they’re concerned, they’re all going to “Heaven” while the rest of us are going to be left behind to fend for ourselves. So, from their point-of-view, why bother trying to fix something that ultimately doesn’t matter in the long-run? The bible says the planet will be destroyed, so why fight it? It was meant to be. This viewpoint has always angered the living hell out of me and completely disgusted me. It’s just a selfish viewpoint, and to me, there isn’t nothing God-like or virtuous in being selfish. It’s all one great big load of hypocrisy. If we were all able to be honest with ourselves and realize that our selfishness and neglect towards the planet is are our biggest problem, we might be able to save ourselves, but so far, I’m just not sure I see that happening. It’s going to take the right people in the right position of power and leadership to force it upon the rest the world–for the good of the world–to make it happen, but by the time that happens, it might be too late. Duct tape fixes a lot of things, but I’m not sure it can patch that hole in the ozone layer.

    Anyway, love your writing on this. I need to go take my anti-depressant now. Ha. 🙂

  2. I agree, I think it’s all the theories combined. Gloom and doom! And yes, realist is the perfect term I’d say. I like that. And this: “I just couldn’t ever feel what people were telling me I’m supposed to feel or believe what they were telling me I need to believe in order for my soul to be “saved.”” As to your theory of our planet and where it’s going, how we got here and where we’re going, I couldn’t have said it better. I never gave much thought to Christians not caring about the environment because heaven was waiting and Earth would inevitably be destroyed anyway. I find your reasoning about their self-centeredness interesting, although I’m not sure I agree – I’m sure it’s certainly true for some individuals, but I thought Jesus taught his followers to not be self-centered? Do good for others, imitate Jesus as best you can by living selflessly. I’m sure he wouldn’t want people to purposely be careless about the Earth and nature…they are God’s creations as well. To end things on a depressing note, I do think the world is on an irreversible downward spiral and we can only prolong its existence if by chance, as you said, we have leaders who take a strong stance on protecting our environment. Viva La Planet Earth! And here’s to hoping it all doesn’t end in 2012.

    Thanks for the writing compliment, by the way. 🙂

    • Sure thing, and don’t get me wrong: I definitely know how Christians are supposed to treat others and live by the example of Christ. I merely meant that many don’t understand that way of thinking anymore and don’t follow that path. It’s their way or no way. Christ taught tolerance and love and caring for the sick and poor and turning the other cheek towards violence. These things simply aren’t exemplified by a lot of Christians today. They have this “spiritual warfare” mentality, as well as seeming rather okay with physically violent warfare, as well. This doesn’t apply to all of them. Perhaps just a minority of them. I just feel like preachers aren’t preaching the right way anymore. There is a lot of anger and hatred coming out of certain churches these days. Christ/God/whatever never gave any human permission to kill on his behalf. It was to be left in God’s hands, but many overlook this point today. My great-Uncle who preached at the Liberty First Assembly of God for a good 30 or so years was still the best pastor I’ve ever listened to. He told me in a private conversation a few years back that he used to be full of anger and didn’t understand why, always getting in fights as a teenager and what not, and that something just clicked in his head one day that allowed him to let most of it all go. In his terms, it was “finding Jesus.” In my terms, it’s simply grasping an understanding the concept of “let it be.” I guess I worship The Beatles. 🙂 Since he retired and then recently passed away, I just haven’t come across anyone as compassionate and tolerant as he was who leads a church, not even his own brother who was also a pastor, and their father who was a pastor. I kind of have a lineage of pastors in my family, if you can’t tell. Ha. I guess it’s why I think about things like this a lot and tend to get a little preachy. It’s just in my blood. 🙂

  3. Ain’t that the truth! Your great-Uncle sounds like an awesome guy – would have been interested to hear him speak. Preach it Dan, preach it! Have you seen the movie “Saved!” ? Curious to know what you think.

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