Laughing at the Void
by Voron iz Zabvenia
How do you face the darkness? Do you pretend it doesn't exist? Do
you wrap it in a scenario where it doesn't seem so bad? Do you face it and
despair? Or just laugh at it?
It's always there--a hundred thousand horrors every day: wars,
starvation, random acts of violence in your neighborhood, oppression,
depression, the monotony of existence, the loss of love, of loved ones, the
looming threat of your own mortality. It's there. We see it on the news,
read it in the papers, hear about it from friends, witness it ourselves; it
cannot be ignored. And so we deal with it. But how?
As any person with even a slight background in psychology knows,
your mind creates defense mechanisms to deal with any number of pressures
put upon the psyche--trauma, information overload, frustration, indecision,
despair. It works the subconscious mind while you work the conscious. This
can result in dreams, peculiar habits, or even a change in your likes and
Death and everything related to it is a concern for us mortals. How
can we possibly face something as monumental as the threat that everything
we have ever worked for, or believed in could just stop in an instant? Just
like that we are gone, but totally unaware, with no resolution or answer
ever to be given.
Some people turn to religion, obviously. Religion is as integral
part of society as anything other, but even more so. We had religion even
before we had government, before we had a civilization. And religion has
been active in every civilization that has ever existed. One could almost
say that a civilization cannot exist without religion. Communist Europe
tried to disallow religion. Admittedly, they did not do the best job
stopping its practice, and the lack of religion was probably not the largest
contributor to its downfall, but nevertheless, Communist Europe is no more.
And the people are practicing religion again, and it's no surprise.
The people need reassurance. They need support when faced with the
'undiscovered country.' When faced with unanswerable questions, humans, as
resourceful as we are, will make answers. Religion was created to answer
these questions. Admittedly, it is much more than that--it has its role as
social structure, its advice for interactions with others; rules for good
living to promote peace and stability. It keeps the people happy and
content as government alone cannot do. It answers those questions, puts
death and pain and hardship in the framework of a greater good, it tells
the people not to worry about what comes after--that it will be better than
And that works. For some--nay, for most people. But not for
everybody. There are the atheists, the agnostics, and the existentialists,
who either reject religion or question its validity. Often times these
people do not know where to turn, when faced with the entropy of the
impending void. And often times, we turn to each other.
I turn to the gothic community. Though raised Christian, I have
come to question my beliefs so much that I cannot stand the simple
acceptance of the devout. And while there are members of every religious
persuasion in the gothic community, a great majority of them question
religion. But I get ahead of myself. What is this gothic culture, really?
The primary element in the gothic culture is a fascination with the
macabre. Things morbid. The dead, the undead, the supernatural; goths live
in that little space between night and death. We drink in the eerie cries
of desolation in the night, we make our own cries and add to the chaos. We
dream of life as an immortal, we question why it is not possible. We look
death in the face. We study evil (if there is such a thing) in all its
forms. And we laugh at it.
We laugh the belly-laugh of father time. We laugh at the absurd
attempt to know all the answers. We laugh at the fear we feel when we
don't. We laugh when we think about the pain that is inescapable anywhere
and everywhere in this life. We laugh at our attempts to find a meaning for
'it all', even while we search frantically. We laugh because it is the only
thing we can do. We laugh so that we do not cry.
The gothic culture is a coping mechanism. It adds just a shade of
meaning to individuals who cannot find that meaning elsewhere. It is an
identity and a pose. It is a lifestyle, and a whim. And above all it is a
set of philosophies.
There are many of these philosophies, as there are many kinds of
goths. But there is something that holds us together. Something a simple
and as complicated as the color black. Black is, as we know, the
traditional color of mourning . . . it echoes the darkness of the grave, and
the infinite void of space. Goths wear black, though wearing black doesn't
make one a goth. And if you ask any goth why they wear black, they won't
say anything about identification or loyalty with the gothic culture, but
will most probably give you the evil eye and tell you it's because they want
to. Or simply say "why not?" But why, indeed?
Though no goth would ever admit it, the black is for identity. It
is for beauty in darkness and mourning for the very calamity of life, but it
is also for identity. In fact, the whole gothic image is a pose. It is a
style that developed 15 years ago, and is still copied/borrowed/emulated to
this day. If you look in a crowd, a goth will stand out. He or she will
also often be bugged or harassed for the way they look, but this usually
does not bother them. In fact, it's an effect that often makes a goth feel
good inside, assuming no undue violence towards them occurs.
What are the ramifications of this identity? A goth never needs to
be told he is a goth. She will know it inside. Goths feel a common bond.
Simon Brind, the famed 'Sexbat," explains it as "a visual identity within
the subculture, . . . and the safety of being within a group where we get
the in joke (Brind lines 139, 141)." For everything comes back to that
sense of humor. Laugh in the face of horror, death, despair and eternity.
Laugh at others in their placid lives. Laugh at ourselves in our *gothique*
pose. In the very first premise of the PerkyGoth manifest, Joel Metz
illustrates this latter element of humor:
"1. We realize, and perhaps declare publicly, the simple fact that
our attire and decorative tastes are downright *silly*, yet in face
of this impractical and sometimes even inconvenient nature of
things, we LAUGH!(Metz lines 9-12)"
Attire and decorative tastes do indeed play an important part in
gothic culture. Gothicism is rooted firmly in aesthetics. You will rarely
find a goth who isn't interested in at least one artistic pursuit, be it
reading and writing literature and poetry, listening to or making music,
making and appreciating art, or expressing art in the realm of fashion. But
these aesthetics, as shallow as they seem, have solid basis in the gothic
philosophies. The subject of the art invariably deals with death, or pain,
or the hardships of life. Many would call it depressing.
The best music would make you weep. It would fill the air with a
sorrow, a pain so deep that it would carry you out into the endless void of
never a tomorrow, and leave you stranded, cold and naked.
The best artwork would evoke both exquisite beauty and horror at the
same time. It's subject would be painful to look at, painful even to think
about, but it would be rendered so delicately and beautifully (or forcefully
and compellingly) that you could stare at it for hours.
The best poetry would pour a flood of emotions into your heart, a
flow of images into your brain so intense that you do not wish to endure
them, but you cannot stop from feeding them in. You are shaken, and
continue to think on the words and images the rest of the day.
Finally, we cannot forget the aesthetics of dress. The perfect look
should be a thing of beauty. It should evoke youth and health and a joy of
experiencing life, while at the same time cast a shadow of sinister
intentions, hidden pain, and death waiting just below the surface. It is
decadence personified, pleasure and pain, life and death in an awful,
For the juxtaposition is ever present. We are living things that
are about to die. Every other living thing is, too, but we know it. And we
choose to face it and not gloss it over or explain it away with more
conventional philosophies like religion. But we live with this knowledge.
And because of it, we are driven to live more, to live better.
Because another tenet of the gothic lifestyle, one which hearkens
back to that beautiful decadence, is the love of life. We need to live life
in every capacity. We socialize to no limits--dance to the music of the
club, haunt the night with other kindred spirits--celebrating the end. We
try new experiences, shed all arbitrary constraints--goths are not unwilling
to question traditional sexual customs, or to sample
intoxicating, mind-altering substances. Some will go to dangerous extents
to gather a new and different experience to themselves.
Because experience is life, and every experience you add to what you
perceive as your life is one more weapon with which to fight the void. One
more piece of concrete evidence to prove that you are innocent of
nonexistence, guilty of life. We laugh and we cry, but most of all, we cry
and laugh with others. Others who share our beliefs, or who can at least
understand ours. It is safety in numbers, though our numbers are small.
Brind, Simon, "Principia Diabolicus: A Philosophical Treatise," goth-
Metz, Joel, "The PerkyGoth Manifesto," alt.gothic, 1994.
I wrote this for my Advance Composition and Public Speaking class--
the same one I gave my semi-famous gothic speech for a few weeks back.
any feedback is welcome. I'm pretty opinionated, so I don't expect
everybody to agree with me, and truthfully, I hope some of you don't. Keeps