As long as I stared at the clock, at least the world remained in motion. Not a very consequential world, but in motion nonetheless. And as long as I knew the world was still in motion, I knew I existed. Not a very consequential existence, but an existence nonetheless. It struck me as wanting that someone should confirm his own existence only by the hands of an electric wall clock. There had to be a more cognitive means of confirmation. But try as I might, nothing less facile came to mind.
― Haruki Murakami, A Wild Sheep Chase
I’ve read somewhere in a book when something happens that is unbearable to you, sometimes, time stops. Like your inner clock just stops working, even if the world keeps spinning you will stand still for the rest of your life.
― Katja Michael, She Came at Dawn
Public Domain Image: Indonesian boy traumatized by tsunami
Time is a social institution and not a physical reality. There is, in other words, no such thing as time in the natural world – the world of stars and waters, clouds, mountains and living organisms. There is such a thing as rhythm – rhythm of tides, rhythm of biological processes.
You may or may not be familiar with Homestuck, a popular web comic by Andrew Hussie available at MS Paint Adventures. At first conceived as an interactive experience, it is now solely based on Hussie’s vision, providing a more coherent story. Many fans are creating artwork and cosplay as a way to stay involved and creative. This is a bit of animation made by a fan showing one of the worlds involved in the series, the steampunk Land of Heat and Confusion (LoHaC). In 2014 an adventure game spinoff of Homestuck is planned.
The Shining contains themes of abuse, addiction, insanity and manipulative evil. What actually makes this story tick in the imagination?
I grew up watching horror movies on my father’s knee. The Shining was one of those films. I distinctly remember the eerie music playing as the little yellow Volkswagen Bug crept into the mountains.
Most novels easily surpass any film or theatrical adaptation, but Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining gives Stephen King a run for his money. It is an excellent film, perhaps largely because Kubrick was willing to stray from the original story in ways that allow the film to have a life of its own. Even so, there are things missing from his retelling which create a richer and scarier landscape in the novel. Many of these things are due to differences in medium. Visual and auditory elements work well in films, while psychological elements, such as internal monologues, do not. Characters like Tony, Danny’s imaginary friend, are difficult to portray and putting them onscreen forces Kubrick to make definitive choices which we are not forced to make as readers. For this reason any film adaptation will make our own imagination “wrong”. This is why they produce such strong reactions.
Kubrick altered and added to the story, creating intense images that make the strongest impacts in the film, such as the blood pouring from the elevator, the ghostly sisters, and the hedge maze. He also managed to de-emphasize one of the central tenets of the story: that a place, or a supernatural inhabitant of a place, could be inherently evil and manipulative by feeding off the energy of its human inhabitants. While it isn’t devoid of supernatural elements, the movie plays up the more explicable side of the story, a man going insane who projects his insanity on his wife and son. The Jack Torrance of the book does a much better job of holding things together, and, as much as I enjoy watching Jack Nicholson play crazy, I wonder if seeing his insanity develop would have been more satisfying.
The most disappointing portrayal in the film is that of Wendy Torrance. Jack’s wife in the novel is a heroic female, torn between a husband and a son who are both behaving incoherently. By the end of the book she is operating extremely clearly in a way that anyone who has ever been through a traumatic situation will recognize. Hollywood wasn’t ready for that in 1980 and I’m not sure they are now. The horror genre has long been enamored of the screaming female and Shelley Duvall is quite the victim. I don’t fault her acting. The problem lies with Kubrick’s direction. His cruelty and meanness toward Shelley Duvall during filming is legendary and inexcusable. Jack’s rampage scene is made more horrific when you realize that Kubrick worked her into a state of mental and emotional panic. She isn’t acting; she’s coming apart before our eyes.
There is a chapter in the book which deals with a clock in the East Ballroom of the Overlook Hotel. This is one of my favorite chapters. It is absent from Kubrick’s realization.
Here in the Overlook all times were one. There was an endless night in August of 1945, with laughter and drinks and a chosen shining few going up and coming down in the elevator, drinking champagne and popping party favors in each other’s faces. It was a not-yet light morning in June some twenty years later and the organization hitters endlessly pumped shotgun shells into the torn and bleeding bodies of three men who went through their agony endlessly. In a room on the second floor a woman lolled in her tub and waited for visitors.
Public Domain Image via Pixabay
In the Overlook all things had a sort of life. It was as if the whole place had been wound up with a silver key. The clock was running. The clock was running.
He was that key, Danny thought sadly. Tony had warned him and he had just let things go on. — The Shining, Chapter 37, The Ballroom
For me this hints at what is most terrifying about the Overlook Hotel: that the forces behind the place are able to subvert time. They hold on to certain people and replay them over and over, never allowing them to rest or be at peace. Even worse, they are able to alter and control events in the present through these replays, by intimidating and even touching the living. The terrifying lady in the bath tub nearly strangles Danny, leaving marks. Kubrick doesn’t portray this onscreen, leaving us to wonder if Jack, or perhaps Danny himself, is responsible.
It strikes me as odd that Kubrick deleted so many of the elements that spoke overtly of the predatory evil of the Overlook Hotel. Was it that he didn’t believe in these elements or was it that they symbolized something he himself wasn’t willing to deal with: that there might be inhuman evil that could turn a man into a monster from the outside? Regardless, both the film and the novel are masterpieces, albeit masterpieces that tell different stories.
Is your creative clock ticking? Learn to listen and adapt to its messages without becoming fearful and completely stressed out.
We often hear of the biological clock. Women, or, less frequently, men, wake up mid-life with the blinding urge to have a child. Artists frequently have the same urge, but it manifests in the desire to create a new thing rather than a new person. This need is both a gift and a vulnerability. The would be artist and the would be parent can fall victim to the same traps, some of which are explored below.
Aging can play tricks on us if we focus on the clock. We may feel miles away from our dreams or maybe we have fulfilled or outgrown those dreams and are in need of new ones. This realization can dawn suddenly with panic or creep in with a sense of dread. Either way, we can become easy prey for insincere people who sense and may even share our desperation. Any human being who claims to be your savior probably has ulterior motives. Seeing another human being as such may mean you yourself are operating with ulterior motives.
See yourself in a more positive light. You are not a victim and you don’t need rescuing.
Everybody is doing it!
No, they aren’t. Take a closer look at people outside of your regular circle. If you are attempting a way of life solely out of peer pressure, it will never feel like it is yours and you and your offspring, human or artistic, will suffer. Most of the time the skill set we have been given and have further developed is not suited to what our neighbor is doing. If you have been slugging away at a particular career for a while and it doesn’t feel right to you, consider something that uses the skills you have honed while converting the weaknesses you have found in yourself into strengths.
The world around you needs you and your genuineness, not another clone. Keep it real!
I have found my path, so now it will be easy!
I teach voice lessons. Every now and then I see one of my less motivated students catch the fire of inspiration and start working and owning their work, only to get a smack at their next performance or contest. Why, they ask, didn’t they get rewarded when they applied themselves? Creative acts are not about instant gratification. Sometimes there is no gratification at all.
Once you decide to get creative, realize that this new baby is going to take loads of time and energy. She’s going to keep you up at night for years because she cannot take care of herself. You’re going to be cleaning up her mess for a long time. Then she will get to the age when she may disappoint you.
Anything I make will be beautiful, smart, and high quality!
There is one guarantee: your offspring will not turn out as you expect. A child has a life outside of you. So does art. As your art matures, it will go places you never dreamed with people you never imagined. Sometimes this is an amazing experience and sometimes it is a nightmare. You have to let go and let your offspring enter the world, where they will be judged, loved and hated. There will be bullies who throw rocks. You will need to stand by with unconditional love, even when you can see faults and shortcomings. Not only is it okay to be an imperfect human, it is what we are supposed to be. Art is our creation, so it is imperfect too.
If I ignore my creative clock it will stop ticking and leave me alone!
Perhaps, but the price for silencing a basic human need is expensive. Things like addiction, violence and apathy can muffle it. We can distract ourselves, but we will never be whole people without the creative impulse. When you find a direction for that impulse, take it. You may lose your way, but what you will find might just be better.
No one understands me!
Remember to look around you. While no one has the same exact path you do, others may be close by. Synkroniciti is out here and if we see you we will wave, say Hello, maybe even walk with you for a little while. We hope you will do the same for us. There is plenty of daylight left and we have lights when it gets dark.
Right now a moment of time is fleeting by! Capture its reality in paint… We must become that moment, make ourselves a sensitive recording plate… give the image of what we actually see, forgetting everything that has been seen before our time.
The Qishla, or fortress, of Baghdad was built by the Ottoman Empire in 1855 as a headquarters for their troops in the region. The tower contains one of the oldest architectural clocks in the world. After the fall of the Ottomans in 1922, the building was converted into a serail, a living quarters for wives, concubines, and female relatives. Later it became part of the International Green Zone. The area was in disrepair after the Iraq War and there were few resources to rebuild it. Recent efforts are being made to restore this historical treasure, as well as others throughout Iraq, as a center for tourism and national pride. You can read more about the effort to restore the Qishla of Baghdad here.
Blow the dust off the clock. Your watches are behind the times. Throw open the heavy curtains which are so dear to you – you do not even suspect that the day has already dawned outside.