I Was Wondering…

I Was Wondering… by Ursprung Collective

Poem written and spoken by Israfel Sivad from his collection The Tree Outside My Window.
Music composed, performed and produced by gn0m0n
Thumbnail: “Christ’s Crucifixion” by Rogelio Ronco

 

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Daynight

Color your love and gaze
silver to gold.
Moon set the sun ablaze;
daynight unfold.

Stars can’t shine through you,
burn the way you do.

Warm my hands for this…
Wrap your mind to this…
Shoot us through with a frozen light.

Filter through out of space
into my soul.
Empty eternal grace…
nothing is whole.

Stars shine out through you,
incinerating blue.

Warm my hands for this…
Wrap your mind to this…
Shoot us through with a frozen light.

Colors of love will take
time to expose.
Purple to silver breaks
daynight, a rose.

Shine stars through darkrooms,
chemicals of noon.

My hand warms to you…
Your mind turns my blue…
Shooting daynight through frozen light.

We Can’t: The Real Chaos of Jurassic Park

That the tyrannosaurus escapes its paddock and that the velociraptors begin to freely hunt humans is not the “real” chaos of Jurassic Park. It’s cinematic excitement. That the dinosaurs are actually able to reproduce simply because “life will find a way” as Dr. Ian Malcolm so succinctly puts it is not the “real” chaos of Jurassic Park either. It’s a restatement of contemporary evolutionary theory with an overemphasis on the natural drive to persist. Finally, Dennis Nedry’s intentional shutting down of the electrical grids in his failed attempt to steal the park’s embryos, although certainly the instigator of quite a chaotic storyline, is also not the “real” chaos of Jurassic Park. It’s market dynamics at work in a high-stakes environment.

These are all examples of chaotic actions. They are not “chaos” itself.

The “real” chaos of Jurassic Park is always beneath the surface, poking its head above the waters in these attempts to illustrate the various impulses of theoretical systems dynamics. The “real” chaos of Jurassic Park is the molten core of this story itself, the very thing that appeals deeply enough to fans to generate a successful franchise of three follow-up sequels in addition to the original film. The “real” chaos of Jurassic Park is what none of us actually understand: the intricacies of the human mind.

Let us return to our earlier examples of Jurassic Park’s chaos to make sense of this statement. This time, however, we’ll read through our examples in reverse order. For, it is Dennis Nedry’s original crime that unleashes the blockbuster’s chaos.

However, as I have already said, Dennis Nedry’s shutting down of the park’s electrical grids is not the film’s real chaos. The real chaos of Jurassic Park is the desire Dennis Nedry feels to begin with. Dennis Nedry feels unappreciated. Believing himself more intelligent than those around him, he acts in concert with those beliefs. He attempts to outsmart his employer and deliver their research to a rival company that will reward him handsomely. He believes he will succeed in this endeavor because he (falsely) believes he is smart enough to succeed. This false belief leads us to our second example of Jurassic Park’s chaos.

Dr. Ian Malcolm’s revelation that “life will find a way” is not the real problem leading to what goes wrong within the park system itself. The real problem is John Hammond’s false notion that human beings can control the path down which life chooses to go. Much like with Dennis Nedry and the inability for his employers to foresee that man’s desire (or Dennis’s own inability to foresee how wrong his plan could go), the operators of Jurassic Park falsely believe they can direct life along a specific path. Therefore, this is not simply an example of life “finding a way.” Rather, it’s an example of human beings falsely believing they can keep life from finding that way.

This leads us to our first and final example of Jurassic Park’s chaos—the tyrannosaurus escaping its paddock and the velociraptors feeding on the park’s operators. This folly never should have come to be in the first place. Without a human being’s overwhelming confidence, there is no reason to believe anyone can consistently control apex predators that went extinct millions of years before. Only the height of hubris would allow a human being to believe such a thing. This hubris, however, is consistently evidenced in our day to day lives. Everything from skateboarding to shark diving reveals it to be a basic human trait. Often, we succeed. Sometimes, we fail. When we fail on a level as massive as Jurassic Park, we only hope the damage can be contained.

It can’t.

In this way, Jurassic Park is a film about the failure of human beings to control their surroundings. It becomes a metaphor for everything from warfare to environmental degradation. We go to war believing the war will be contained. It won’t. We use plastics believing we can figure out how to dispose of them later. We can’t. However, what we really learn from Jurassic Park is that the core failure of the human being is our own desire. Wanting to be able to control these things creates situations that loom beyond our control. We want to be able to corral our underlings, our superiors and our creations into the roles we’ve designed for them, and therein lies our tragic flaw. We can’t.

 

Song for the Night

You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone.
So I’m leaving you this song
because our memories aren’t real.
They’re nothing solid to feel.

And all our lies and truths and joys and pains
will all seem beautiful once again.

You’re gonna wonder where I’ve gone,
crying to hope to come along.
But you can’t follow me here, my dear.
So when you close your eyes my words are near.

And though your world will forget about me
within this song I’ll still be seen.

You must forgive me;
I got carried away.
You must forget me
as you’re carried away.

I’m gonna miss you when you’re gone.
‘Cause nothing stays around here long.
And someday you will write
a song for someone else’s night.

And when you do, please let them know
there’s nowhere else for us to go.

 

A Precarious State: Violence and Retribution in Stallone’s Cobra

In the opening sequence of Sylvester Stallone’s 1986 film Cobra, images flash back and forth between a lone biker riding out before a rising sun and the eerie clanking of grisly, subterranean axes. Soon, the watcher bears witness to that lone biker, with a shotgun in hand, taking over a supermarket, an everyday aspect of American life. Supermarkets provide the United States with sustenance, and in this nightmarish landscape, they’re in danger.

Stallone’s character, Marion Cobretti (aka Cobra), a cop working through the LAPD’s fictitious “Zombie Squad” and thus functioning on the outskirts of the law himself, confronts this self-proclaimed “hero” of the New Order. Informing the “hero” that he is merely a disease to which Cobra himself is the cure, Cobra coldly guns down the lone biker to media disapproval only to discover this criminal is one among many of an army of cancerous tumors plaguing the city of Los Angeles. This infernal body of disease is eventually revealed to have a head of sorts, a maniac serial killer known throughout the movie only by the vicious derivative of Richard Ramirez’s real life media moniker of “Night Stalker”, the name “Night Slasher”.

Panned by critics upon its initial release for derivative storytelling, Cobra, possibly by fusing Hollywood genres as disparate as action and horror, has turned into a cult classic. But even more than its formal structure, this film has a certain je ne se quoi lurking beneath its surface that allows it to resonate with the primal feelings of its audience. To give voice to and better understand this je ne sais quoi itself, we must delve into the deeper meaning of Cobra’s plot where we will discover how it is the very precariousness of today’s social order itself that allows this film to resonate so clearly with its many fans. Moreover, it is this tuning into the horrifying sounds always bubbling beneath the surface of any great society that makes this action extravaganza a story worth telling.

The heart of Cobra’s action revolves around a burgeoning war between Cobra, as a representative of social order and justice, and a nascent New Order. Cobra’s New Order (first mentioned by the supermarket terrorist), as described by Wikipedia, is “a supremacist group of social Darwinist radicals that despise modern society and believe in killing the weak, leaving only the strongest and smartest to rule the world.”

This statement gives voice to Cobra’s overall moral compass. In the eyes of the New Order, our decrepit “modern society” allows the weak to flourish. Now, from a Christian moral standpoint, this is actually a “good” thing. For, Jesus Himself says “the meek shall inherit the earth”. Thus, continuing our journey through this world of morality, we must recognize Cobra’s New Order as a satanic force. This gives Cobra’s story a religious core. For, although Cobra himself functions on the outskirts of law and order, his goal is to protect the “weak” from the self-perceived “strong”. Whether those “strong” are so in objective fact or merely subjective opinion isn’t at issue. What remains is that Cobra is a “shepherd” protecting his “flock”. That flock being the entire city of Los Angeles, perhaps the entire United States, and by extension, perhaps, even the entire world.

The New Order being birthed in Los Angeles’s subterranean underbelly has the power to potentially reach anybody anywhere with its random acts of violence. Any one of us could be Ingrid Knudson, Cobra’s female protagonist hunted by the New Order for no apparent reason other than that she saw their leader, the Night Slasher himself, standing beside a broken down car earlier in the day she was first attacked. This chance encounter turned the devil’s gaze upon her. However, reason itself is a chimera in the New Order’s world. The New Order doesn’t need a reason to hunt anybody. Unlike in Cobra’s system of moral merit where the weak get special privilege to receive protection from the strong, the New Order alone determine who should survive. They have determined Ingrid Knudson to be weak and, therefore, not fit to live. Just as they determined the same for the citizens who happened to be shopping at that supermarket when the lone gunman entered. Just as they determine the same for all the Night Slasher’s hapless victims.

The social Darwinism espoused by the New Order wouldn’t be so terrifying if it weren’t the case that on some level many of us believe the New Order’s system to be “true”. We’re all the weak. There’s no such thing, in the world we inhabit, as the strong. We’re all potential victims of the circumstances of natural disease, and as Marion Cobretti himself says, that’s precisely what crime is: a disease. Like with any virus, it has no brain, no mind, no intention. None of us are immune to its vicissitudes. It might attack any one of us at any point in time. Perhaps, the most terrifying aspect of crime itself is its inherent randomness. There are certainly motivated crimes, but for many of us (whether it’s a result of breaking and entering, aggravated assault, and even rape or murder) it will happen randomly, destroying our senses of agency and making us feel as if we are weak regardless of how strong, either internally or externally, we may actually be.

For many of us, the causes of crime are as unknown as the New Order’s motivations. There may be social mechanisms at work when crimes occur, but we can’t see them in action. All we see are the results. This is the truth Cobra hits upon, and this is what Cobra is fighting against. We’re terrified we may actually be the weak simply because we aren’t strong enough to control our external worlds. However, no human being can control her external world. That’s what makes Cobra such a compelling character. Regardless of how terrifying the scenarios portrayed in this film may be, by means of his will and his weaponry, Cobra continuously controls his external world. He does this by turning the very violence we’re so afraid of back upon itself.

That’s what eventually creates such a mesmerizing final scene. Much like how the opening sequence’s rising sun symbolizes the terrifying future the New Order hopes to bring to fruition, as Cobra turns the tables on a fist fight with the Night Slasher and lifts the murderer onto a hook to send him screaming into a foundry’s flames, we see the primal solution to our fears branded onto celluloid. It’s violence that terrifies us, and it’s violence we believe will save us. Whether that’s true or not doesn’t matter. What matters is, on the level of primal justice, as Cobra’s cult status certainly proves, it rings true for the audience.

This leads to the ethical dilemma Cobra poses: Is violence required to combat violence? To return to our Biblical morality, the Hebrew Testament exhorts ancient Israeli citizens to take “an eye for an eye”. In this way, peaceful ends justify violent means. Social order justifies those who act outside that order in order to maintain it. However, there’s also always the more contemporary approximation of this Biblical ideology, often attributed to Mohandas Gandhi: “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind”. In this formulation, peaceful ends do not justify violent means. For, there is no end to the cycle of violence. In fact, using peaceful ends to justify violent means could potentially allow for the justification of any violence. The New Order themselves could make the claim that when their purge is complete a peaceful, well-ordered world will result. Therefore, they are the righteous. Those combatting them, Marion Cobretti included, are the wicked allowing this world’s current chaos to continue.

However, there’s another way to interpret the call of an eye for an eye, and that is the formulation that leads to salvation in William Friedkin’s 1973 film The Exorcist: “Evil shall see itself, and it shall die”. Perhaps, it’s not the act of violence itself that brings an end to violence, but rather, it’s the reflection of violence back upon itself that brings an end to violence. For, if evil shall see itself and it shall die, then violence shall see itself and it shall cease. Like multiplying two negatives together, violence reflected upon violence becomes a positive.

This formulation of “the law” is embodied in Marion Cobretti. For, it’s his overabundance of violence that brings an end to the New Order’s violence. Their psychopathy is reflected back upon them in the form of Marion Cobretti’s own compulsive sociopathy, and it destroys them. There’s no way for them to combat it. From the supermarket terrorist to the Night Slasher himself, they can only succumb. Now, whether this formulation of “the law” is true in abstract reality doesn’t matter. What matters is this appears to be the formulation of the law Cobra believes.

And this formulation of the law continues to gain adherents because we all see Cobra’s chaos bubbling beneath the surface of our stable societies. We see violence in the news. We know there are crimes occurring in the world beyond our doors because we fear they may strike our children on their way to school. On some level, we’re all afraid any one of us could be in that supermarket when the terrorist strikes. We believe in the necessity of Cobra. We believe violence must combat violence. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t have a police force. We wouldn’t continue to enforce the death penalty. And we certainly wouldn’t condone the reality of war. Society’s stability is a piece of water-logged detritus we cling to while floating in a sea of chaos. We all know this. But does this make Cobra’s violence “right”? Will we continue to urge an eye for an eye, or will we finally insist we all must turn the other cheek?