Friday, June 13, 2008

Schopenhauer and the Komodo Dragon, or, The Dark Side of Vitalism



"Yunghalm relates that he saw in Java a plain far as the eye could reach entirely covered with skeletons, and took it for a battlefield; they were, however, merely the skeletons of large turtles, five feet long and three feet broad, and the same height, which come this way out of the sea in order to lay their eggs, and are then attacked by wild dogs (Canis rutilans), who with their united strength lay them on their backs, strip off their lower armour, that is, the small shell of the stomach, and so devour them alive. But often then a tiger pounces upon the dogs. Now all this misery repeats itself thousands and thousands of times, year out, year in. For this, then, these turtles are born. For whose guilt must they suffer this torment ? Where fore the whole scene of horror? To this the only answer is : it is thus that the will to live objectifies itself."

Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation (Vol. 2: Supplements to the Second Book)

Cf. John Vidal, from yesterday's Guardian:

I have seen hell, and it is indisputably on Rinca Island in Indonesia. This Komodo dragon-infested spot is where three British divers who got caught in a rip tide washed up last week. Far from being "misunderstood" reptiles who only "occasionally" attack humans, as my G2 colleague Jon Henley described them afterwards, the Rinca dragons engage in what must be the vilest animal practices ever witnessed by man. I met three particularly nasty ones last year. We had walked past a few harmless-looking dragons sunning themselves in the bush or lurking under the stilts of houses, and were not beyond thinking we could be friends when we reached a water hole. A large buffalo was lying on its side, clearly having been brought down by two 6ft dragons and one that was even larger. The three reptiles were crawling over it, and during the next 24 hours they proceeded to eat it alive.

The first dragon had grabbed it by its testicles and was starting to chew its way into the body from below. The second dragon was slowly forcing the buffalo's head open and was going down its throat. The third was, as they say, going in the back door. To make an already grisly scene far worse, the whole slow-motion kill was being conducted in deep mud. After a few hours all was black - apart from the blood that occasionally bubbled up from the muddy depths, the white saliva that sometimes oozed from the buffalo's mouth and the bright, flickering forked tongues of the three dragons, which were forever darting around. Slippery things slithered slowly over other slippery things until it was hard to tell whose tail was whose, where one body started and another stopped and who was doing what to whom. The smell was fetid, the heat intense. Every so often the buffalo shuddered and tried to rise. Was it really still alive? We watched from a few feet away, our guide armed only with a stick, transfixed and disgusted like us. Our stomachs heaved. The buffalo continued to twitch.

We left and returned several times; each time the horror was more complete. The next day, two Americans told us that the three dragons had got deep inside the buffalo, which was still twitching.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Ben N said...

The moon is dull. Mother Nature doesn’t call, doesn’t speak to you, although a glacier
eventually farts. And don’t you listen to the Song of Life.
Werner Herzog
+
Of course we are challenging nature itself, and it hits back, it just hits back,
that’s all. And that’s grandiose about it and we have to accept that it’s much
stronger than we are. Kinski always says it’s full of erotic elements. I don’t see
it so much as erotic, I see it more full of obscenity … And nature here is vile
and base. I wouldn’t see anything erotical here. I would see fornication and
asphyxiation and choking and fighting for survival and growing and just
rotting away. Of course there is a lot of misery, but it is the same misery that
is all around us. The trees here are in misery, and the birds are in misery. I
don’t think they sing, they just screech in pain …. Taking a close look at
what’s around us, there is some sort of a harmony. There is the harmony of
overwhelming and collective murder …. There is no harmony in the
universe. We have to get acquainted to this idea that there is no real
harmony as we have conceived it.
Herzog again

5:12 AM  
Blogger Dominic said...

"The graduated hostility of things"

9:39 AM  
Anonymous Paul Yarbles said...

The dragons got nothing on us humans.

Have you ever seen an industrial chicken farm in the good old US of A? How 'bout a Chinese meat market?

Now that's some vileness.

6:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What strikes me as most horrific is, for example, Donald Trump's aesthetic sense, or Bernie Madoff's cousin's sizable collection of original French Impressionists' paintings.

Why is it that people who've spent the better part of their lives committing the most brutal acts against their fellows, are invariably compelled to spend much of the blood-money they have accumulated on obtaining items many consider to be the most beautiful?

3:08 AM  

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