Way above sea level, in the Welsh mountains, a wedding is taking place. The bridge and the groom have assumed their place under the archway and the ceremony has begun. Here is a different world, in which those who are celebrating are strangers to me – their happiness is only a simulacrum of the real thing, as though affixed to a visual screen lacking an emotive thrust. In a word: shadowplay.
The following night, I return to the world of the living. But I have been followed and in a bid to escape, I seek solace by sleeping. Something happens: beginning at my arm and leading to my shoulder, small LED digits have been lit up on my flesh, like micro candles on a strip of earth. But their presence is insidious: total passivity is the result. Worse still, my body has been reduced to an “It,” refusing to obey my cognitive processes and placing an injunction against all forms of communication. The trauma of sleep.
It’s getting late by now and I go downstairs and smoke out of the bathroom window. Nietzsche is circulating: “However you may be, serve yourself as your own source of experience! Throw off discontent with your nature, forgive yourself your own ego, for in any event you possess in yourself a ladder with a hundred rungs upon which you can climb to knowledge.”
Increasingly, I am returning to the conviction that of all the human experiences, Sartre’s classical analysis of nausea is the most primary and probably the most significant. The fundamental alienation of things in the world, the incommensurable horror of their facticity, and the circular desire to confer a hollow substantiality upon those things all conspire toward a total failure of the nervous system. Everything is returning to those first disarming minutes, in which the sense of radical uncertainty emerged.
Why was I not more rattled when my flat was broken into? Because it was there all along: the massive rupture of security, the exposure to the outside realm, the failure of place to protect the dreamer’s memories. On this point, Bachelard was wrong. We are already in the hands of the world, with its clammy refusal to put to rest the past. The physical collapse of walls and doors is simply a surface expression of this return to a primordial nausea, fundamentally unable to be escaped from.