Limina: A Journal of Historical and Cultural Studies

Fear and Loathing in the Heart of Darkness by Susan Taylor Suchy

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Susan Taylor Suchy

The University of Western Australia 

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Fear and Loathing in the Heart of Darkness

From the heart of darkness erupts an uncontrollable violence. The image of the erupting volcano symbolises the dark inner space and the surfacing of that red-hot heat. The theme of violence of the dark heart, that we fear and loathe, has been presented famously in literature, for example, in Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano, Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, and Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. All of these works jumped to mind when I came to examine the way the creative work emerged, the type of anger it represents, and the purpose of such anger. 

The creative act was spurred by my own anger at an incident that had occurred to me two days prior. When drawing, there was no sense of this anger being present, but later, I could see the surfacing and redirection of deep-seated emotion. I reflected on how we believe we have no control of this type of anger, the anger that takes us by surprise and becomes the hurts and the harms we commit to others and to ourselves. In science, in thermodynamics, the law of conservation of energy tells us that energy cannot be created or destroyed. This was true in regard to the anger that arose suddenly, heatedly within me. The anger did not go away, but resurfaced at a later point.

So what is the use of such power and what does the volcano teach us of how to live? To go back to the law of conservation of energy, we know that while energy cannot be created or destroyed, energy can change forms. With a volcano, we can witness the transformative opportunity of the lava flow. The hot molten rock is soft and can form new shapes. But can we choose the form and shape of our hot lava of emotions? Lava is too hot to touch. But what if our own kind of self simply bears witness? That might change everything, and that is what the creative act represents: a bearing witness to an emotion, and thus, a transformation.


Limina: A Journal of Historical and Cultural Studies

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Friday, 12 December, 2014 2:02 PM