Thursday, September 3, 2009

Terror Below -- The Sea

In my previous posting, I suggested that we are especially terrified by terrors below because we are instinctually programmed to expect attacks from above and beside, but never below. Yet as descendants from tree-dwelling monkeys, we carry genetical programming that does anticipate attack from below ... In other words, there’s this residual fear of attack from below, but that residual has been buried (so to speak) -- until it necessarily arises.

I suggested that this argument is especially pertinent to the sea. On the land we might presumably safely assume that nothing can attack from beneath us, but on the ocean, we ought to expect it, right?

Yet we find terrors beneath the surface of the ocean especially horrifying.

There’s this whole sense of the impossibility of boating, for example. “My God!” one ought to reasonably realize, "I’m barely suspended above miles of depths full of horrors, held barely in suspension by surface tension!" It’s the same terror that so many people feel when flying: "Wake up!" we scream inside. "My God! Falling is just pretend! We’re going to fall!"

Vertigo, that dizzying horror we feel on the edge of cliff, ought to be present in every trip on a boat. I suspect that it is there, but shoved back into the back of our minds ready to be reawakened as soon as something surfaces.

Compound this with the true horrors of the deep: sharks, giant squid, whale so big that they should see us as mere squashable gnats…

No wonder, then, that so many horror films and Greek legends have picked up our terrors from below when skimming the surface of those great unknown seas....

Anyhow, in the next couple of postings I want to first examine the more unexpected horrors of terrors beneath us while we are land, followed by an examination of related mythology.

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