In a World, or culture, challenged by disconnection, I’m always overjoyed by powerful moments of connection.
Just a few minutes ago, before making some hot and apropos Yogi DeTox tea…
…I finished the penultimate chapter of the should-be-still-more-legendary graphic novel “Watchmen,” written by Alan Moore…
…and illustrated by David Gibbons.
I first read it years ago, well before the moderately well received 2009 Zach Snyder film of the same name. And that was before it made Time Magazine’s list of the 100 best novels, despite it being a “graphic” novel and not a “pure” novel. Extra bar to clear, I suppose.
The work struck me hard the first time. I believe I read it after reading Ishmael in 2003, so, like Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias in the novel, I’d taken a great step back from History and Civilization, to get a better look. But I believe it’s hitting me harder, this second-but-surely-not-last time.
The penultimate chapter I just finished outlines Veidt’s life, strength, and plan. And, at the end, there’s a heartbreaking flash of connection that hit me so hard I spent a minute convulsing with sobs.
A connection not with any human being by my side. But rather with my soul.
I’d already felt a great day dawning. And such a connection only greatened it. I felt the enormous pleasure, the warm gratitude, of onrushing writing with soul. And, in a nod to Veidt himself, I aspire to find a way to… maintain that strength and productivity.
That has been my cross in life, bourn through Time. And daily I battle to beat my chest and cry out with power, rather than collapse under the weight of the World like a mere mortal.
I’m remiss to spoil the plot, but feel free to call this sentence a “spoiler alert.”
Veidt’s plan involves an alternate reality 1985 in which costumed heroes exist. And one superhero, the product of a molecular disintegration accident in 1960. That disintegrated man, once a Doctor Johnathan Osterman who then became Dr. Manhattan, rebuilt himself somehow, though in ways detached. Perhaps without a soul. And his existence, as an American superman, won Vietnam, empowered Nixon, imbalanced the nuclear arms race, advanced technology, and unnerved Humanity.
Framed at one point, by Veidt to advance his plans, he escapes for a time to Mars, before returning in an attempt to help. Though he ends up outmaneuvered by Veidt.
Veidt, after all, once a mere costumed hero called “the smartest man in the World,” has gone into business. To gather wealth. To execute his plan.
To save Humanity and the World.
And he doesn’t even mention Daniel Quinn.
In addition to the sense that his terrifying plan to save the World possess, a plan surely lending new layers of meaning to the saying “if you want to make an omelet you have to break some eggs,” the chapter broke my heart with its themes of human disconnection in an ironically overpopulated World. People cold and alone, while warmth and souls surround them.
Some of all this makes me think of the inspiring and terrifying community, male driven and in synch with Evolution, explored in “Fight Club.” Letting go. Seeing the bigger picture. Understanding that the insular individual is not nearly as important as “the IKEA nesting instinct” might lead such individuals to believe.
His name was Robert Paulson. His name was Robert Paulson. His name was Robert Paulson.
Played by Meat loaf. A dish of beef, with broken eggs mixed in.
And the skyscrapers Tyler Durden blew up, like all tall buildings, were made of floor after floor after floor. Layer after layer after layer. Stinking with the debt record that could devour human beings like a capitalist ogre.
Layers… Onions…. Ogres….
Laughter mixed with tragedy. That’s for you, Marie.
Veidt’s plan, specifically (your final spoiler alert, protecting you from one of the great plot twists of all time), involves…
…reunifying Humanity with a sense of community. Restoring what I would argue is a sense of community we lost when… Civilization gave us the sense we’d installed our species at the Tyrant King of the planet. As a cancer. Corrupted absolutely by absolute power. To the detriment of all other cells in the planetary body. And, with that loss of a sense of the World as a beautiful and threatening force full of all manner of gods, we lost the greatest “external threat” we had. And I believe that it is external threat that brings us together, keeps us from creating external threat out of each other, like modern Republicans and Democrats.
The lack of it? As Veidt saw, in a world brought to the brink in that fictional 1985 by an arms race with the Soviet Union, contrasts with ours. I see a World where America began to split asunder with the LOSS of an external threat from the USSR.
We are evolved to NEED an external, unifying force.
And, lacking one, we, like an immune system in a sterilized World… turn on the body to create one. Or on things that would otherwise be acceptable to the body. In the manner of allergies.
On many layers.
But back to Veidt.
His terrifying, egg-breaking plan is… to create a global villain… entirely fictional… that seems to come from something entirely outside Mother Earth. A great lie of an extra-dimensional being that, when warred against, will in no way be a cancerous war against any cell of Mother Earth.
And when this being is teleported into the heart of New York City, it dies. And as it does so, it’s latent psionic powers….
…kill half of the millions calling that global capital their home.
So does Spock’s logic, in Star Trek II: the Wrath of Kahn, pan out?
Then what about Osterman? Dr. Manhattan?
Despite all his powers, even he sees it as a power for good beyond his own god-like abilities. Indeed everyone sees it, and is either terrified into acceptance for the “greater good,” or, like Rorschach…
…placed in the position of almost ordering Dr. Manhattan to disintegrate him.
Because, to him, the “right” choice is with what is “right,” and not with “what works.” Justice over practicality.
And that is a grand question.
And good intentions can be dirty.
Very, very dirty indeed.
Especially when executed on a godly level by mere mortals who, on eating the fruit of the gods’ own Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, cannot absorb its nutrients.
My apologies to cartoonstock.com for wiping out their watermark under the eaten apple, against the wood.
Here I am again.
In another moment of strength and peaceful clarity. Wondering how to… keep it going. I know (or patterns make me feel that I know) that tomorrow I’ll wake up tomorrow feeling cold, frightened and weak. Almost entirely unable to comprehend how to “grab the World by the balls” in any kind of Veidt way without total immersion in a World full of people like him. Without using his “Veidt Method” to turn me into a mortal superman.
How to PROCEED, when the World needs saving, and the strength is in me? How to dare to reach out for power and connection in a Wold full of terrible disconnection from even lovers who once loved you, and a World which so often seems impossible to save?
Still more (Alan Moore?) therapy?
Communal living, a spiritual retreat, a hashish ball in the desert, a job with 360.org, or my own recreation of Alexander’s journey?
I dove hard into this, at a recent, amazing workshop on sustainability leadership. At Bard College. In New York… State. Not City. Though many at the training feared for the World.
My personal story. An assignment there.
In writing it, I dove so deep that I came up for air with mild symptoms of shock. Chills. The shakes. A sign of good writing, in a way.
But I won’t post it, for the benefit of certain people who should be protected.
And now I’m back in my home. Unsure how to proceed.
A “how we saved the World” story contest, of which I was informed at that workshop, has me hard at work on ideas. But I doubt the judges want literature about godly blue supermen or genius businessman murderers who research teleportation.
Veidt idolized Alexander the Great. The story of the Goridan Knot. The ahead-of-its-time lateral thinking (note that concept in the Veidt Method) that Alexander used to realize a sword wasn’t prohibited in undoing the famous puzzle.
Veidt, after years on a World journey tracing Alexander’s steps, after years as a mere costumed hero who did not yet realized that “the bad guys” are not the real danger to Humanity and the World, realized that the World’s problem is a Gordian Knot. And the fictional, extra-dimensional being tentacle monster was the sword. A lie that, as Hitler knew, was big enough to be believed.
For now I think I’m spent. Though of course I can edit.
I need a break. A sword on the knot-perfect solution of writing a blog post. An Amos the Semi-Great step forward.
But I suppose I should include the poem surely implied, when Veidt named his higher self. I remember it from English class in high school. And while that statue did not survive, perhaps there are works that can survive, even if they lose their attachment to a human creator. The work of saving the World would become no less valuable without attribution to an auteur.
And, as always… like and share, if you like, to help me attain greatness.
Or rather not me.
It is the World that should attain that. I’m merely a childless man, and nothing even close to a Mother Earth.