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Francesco Colonna: Hypnerotomachia Poliphili
-The terrified Poliphilus flying before the dragon (fol. d iii verso) (1499)

" … reassuring us that we're Hell-bound without hand baskets."

I apologize for what follows, for I find what follows extremely disturbing. I only write the following because I notice myself wrestling with how things seem to be. How things seem to be, to my estimation, should come naturally, yet they do not always seem to come naturally, for we inhabit a distinctly Paranoiac culture, and the paranoid cannot seem to ever just let things be. The paranoid feel as though they somehow owe the world salvation and they're always acting, or always saying that they're acting, to save the world, as if the world needed saving, as if they held leverage to save the world, both deeply questionable propositions. The most paranoid behave as if they are on a mission from God, an affectation that I suspect God, should such a being exist, finds deeply disturbing but hardly surprising, for if we were actually made in God's image, God should be intimately familiar with Paranoiac reactions, and so understand the choices presented and selected.

I suspect that paranoia's a choice, a particularly seductive one, and one which starts with a single victim before working outward from that middle to infect others both inadvertently and also on purpose.
I believe that I must be careful what I believe because my being seems capable of amplifying any belief to become overwhelming. I become what I insist so I must insist responsibly. If I insist out of fear I will create ample justification to feel terrified. My stories become my reality. My reality seems only distantly related to anything very tangible.

I went to lunch with two friends yesterday, only to find the place ringed with TVs silently blaring shameless paranoia. A half dozen big screens flickering Fox "news," paranoia manifest all around us. I could hardly lift my head without feeling as though I was being force fed stories expressly designed to leave me feeling paranoid. Slight slants twisted what might have started as information into definite indoctrination. I had not seen any television "news" in months and months and hadn't missed its insidious influence. Where we once aspired to link ourselves together with our broadcast media, we've come to tear ourselves apart with it. It seemed as if, sitting there trying to focus upon the conversation and my tuna sandwich, that the more dedicated Paranoiac demand constant reassurance and reinforcement. The News leads them around like a theater usher, except the performance stopped being theater ages ago.

I suspect that every culture eventually arrives at the point where their own success overwhelms their ability to cope with it. Maybe the people just grow bored after achieving a certain stasis. Beyond that point, they might focus upon ever finer refinement or even upon simple enjoyment, or they might grow increasingly concerned that some force might be attempting to take away their gains. An enemy appears, first in the distance, then at the gate, or so the stories seem to relate. It's not undermined yet, but it sure could get out of hand unless somebody—patriot, savior, noble citizenry—takes a defensive stand. That world started going to Hell just after somebody insisted that they represented Heaven in the upcoming battle, and the battle had already started by then, the battle as well as the descent into consuming paranoia.

And here we are, after decades of self-righteous wars and utterly fictitious insistences, after serially failing to save anybody including ourselves, after feeding ourselves outrageous fictions. Not once has any tax cut paid for itself. No one ever once successfully transplanted democracy anywhere. It apparently only grows from indigenous seed and with considerable difficulty before struggling to sustain itself under the best of circumstances. The evil empire has never threatened us even half as much as has our Paranoiac response to their presence. We seem to demonstrate a distinct lack of faith in ourselves, in our innate goodness, wherever we choose to embrace some obvious evil in pursuit of what we insist will eventually become a common good. We have become cynical. We might have forgotten about the tuna sandwich by over-focusing upon the pickle. The Fox "news" broadcast reassures us that we're Hell-bound without hand baskets.

Be gentler with each other. There be real dragons.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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