Tuesday, 25 March 2014
The Dogmas Of The Quiet Past
Sometimes television will tell you that all America comprises of is bars and strip-clubs and ill-maintained dance clubs. A seedy underbelly that has swallowed the beast it was supposed to lie beneath.
There is a reason for this, of course. All those locations share something in common. They are - probably by design and most certainly in practice - places where people go to have something separate from the rest of their lives. Refuges and escapes. It would be hard to find a more obvious statement. But what matters is the impulse, not the location. There really isn't all that much that separates a strip club from an affair other than capacity and a surcharge.
Perhaps this is why Hart, having been dumped by his young lover, finds himself wandering from one display of flesh to the next. Yes, it's in the course of his investigation, but there is always more than one route to a destination. You don't have to trawl through so much filth if you think a little harder about where you're stepping. You certainly don't have to follow your undercover partner into the compound of a violent and sadistic biker gang for no damn reason.
Not unless you're fleeing so fast from something you no longer give a damn about where you're headed.
Which is Hart down to his bones, of course. Attacking Lisa's new choice of partner, coming within an inch of kicking off a brawl in a hospital, walking slowly and begrudgingly through a hail of bottles. It takes dedication for your alcoholic partner to get drunk and high and agree to a raid on heavily armed drug dealers in the projects so as to back up face-carving proto-Nazis and for you to be the guy who looks in trouble.
Because when we use these places to escape our lives, sooner or later they become our lives. Cohle learned this lesson once before, though the fact he kept his neat box of guns and grenades and hard liquor suggests he didn't learn it as well as perhaps he needed to. When we say we're getting away from it all, what we really mean is that we're trying to escape the mistakes we've made. The past we've ruined. And in the process, perhaps because we're so busy trying not look back we won't look forward, or perhaps because we're just people and as such fucking everything up is our default approach, we just make new mistakes in new settings, and the whole horrible process just spools up once again.
Except for children. The innocents. Not because they never sin, but because there is almost no sin a child can commit that can't be quickly forgiven, brushed aside as being something one simply has to expect. A child can fuck up in any number of ways and the next day everything resets. And then there comes a time in their life when they've become too old for that to operate any more, and all of a sudden when they screw something up, it stays screwed. Then, worse, the screw-ups start to compound themselves, building on each other until you've surrounded yourself with tightly packed walls of shit.
No wonder we have so fractious a relationship with the past. We're not only trying to ignore the mistakes we've piled up, we're trying to forget there was a time when nothing we could do would really matter all that much. We tell ourselves children are the future because it hurts to much to remember that children are our past.
Of course, not everyone chooses to blot this out and continue shuffling through the day. Out in the Louisiana woods, a different approach has been birthed. Satan worship, Lang called it, but we know better. Sacred rocks predate anything the Christians have made famous. Deer antlers and spirals go back far, far further than a young Jew's temptation in the desert. Whatever they are, though, they're trading on the past-free lives of children in order to get into contact with something that is all past, so ancient it can only be sketched in the faintest form on our consciousnesses. The Yellow King. Carcosa. Not names, but desperate indications for something a name cannot stick to.
The monster at the end of the dream. The horror at the start of the world. Lying dreaming in the Lousiana woods, as men poke at it with antlers and dream of how their pasts will finally be left behind when it awakens to claim us all.