Monsters and Beasts

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” Friedrich Nietzsche


Monsters and beasts have roamed the earth since the beginning, crawling their way out of the depths of inky seas onto the hard sands of firm earth. Demons slither between the heavens and the earth and have since before the sun’s birth, and the Cyclops always seeks to devour weary travelers trapped in his cave. Gorgons still haunt our forests and our dreams with their writhing snake-hair.

From what hopeless lair did such beasts first crawl? What dry creek bed spawns a ruthless heart? We wonder.

What common trait rests in the face of such beasts, in their eyes or around the corners of their mouths, so that we can see the danger and be warned?

At the edge of the horizon, where the storms live, lies a great abyss – anyone standing on any seashore has seen it. Ancient men, Homeric and otherwise, have journeyed there – or sought to – since the dawn of the sea, building sailing vessels small and large to carry them to the brink of earth, risking the inevitable plunge into infernal darkness only to peer into the abyss and see what is down there.

To possibly understand what’s rolling in the mystery of unseen waters.

We all board our ships at one time or another. We want to see beyond human thought, so we lumber onto boats with all our gear and tackle and embrace our journey toward the void. The edge of the world is sharp, its crevasses deep. It takes people of enormous courage – the likes of Galileo, who risked looking upward – or Moses, staff in hand on the edge of his own sea – to look deep into the unknown and still find the strength to stand erect on their two wobbly feet. The weak among us falter, quit our boats, and cower back to cozy caves, choosing comfort over fearsome knowledge. We cannot fault them for we have often done the same. But the strong risk the precipice to take a look. At the peril of their very lives, the strong want to look into the pit and see what is birthed in the depths.

So, peer over, do you dare? The waves are mountainous at the brink, fearsome as they roar over the edge – you may get only one chance to peer over before you turn back or plunge to the rocks below, so do not miss your chance, you’ve already come so far. But you must remember this and be warned: whosoever looks into the abyss cannot un-see what he has seen. Such remains forever in his memory locked.

Inch your boat closer – take a long look.

At the world’s edge the deep blue waters pour rough and constant into a great chasm, black in its fathomless depths. Swirling in the plunging waves, near the bottom where light meets absolute dark dwells a Sybil, smiling and holding up an antique glass. Heraclitus spoke of her first, “with frenzied mouth uttering things not to be laughed at,” but she was here long before any Greek penned a poem – she’s been around since the start.

She shouts her greeting into the salty mist swirling round her, sounding as one speaking from the depths of a cave. “Is it the beasts you seek to understand, their origin and meaning? Ah, then you have journeyed well. But enlightenment into such mysteries is never what you expect, so be warned. Take a look,” she taunts, holding high her ancient mirror. “Tell me what you see.”

The weary traveler, eyes tired from his search and blurry from the salt-spray, looks into the mirror and shouts his answer above the din. “I see nothing unusual in your charmed glass!” he cries. “Nothing but my own reflection, as I always see.”

She laughs amidst the swirling waters. “Indeed, your journey has not been in vain. For in my mirror you behold the truest truth – where the great beast of the earth dwells.” She shrieks her message loud, laughing, “He lives inside you, seeker. Of all the men and women who ever walked on earth or ever will, there are only two kinds – the foolish and the wise. While scholars have belabored the difference, it is simple to tell the one from the other.

“The foolish among you poke and prick the beast within; you taunt him and fear him not, and in so doing, you breathe life into his gruesome bones and wake him from his slumber. You nourish him with your anger and your lusts – perhaps you know not what you do – and the beast within you feeds and grows, itching in ancient frustration until finally the pressure of your own weakness cracks the façade and releases him, and his words echo once again backward and forward through the long corridors of time, I am Hubris! – I am always born again!”

The wind screams in frenzy at each mention of the monster’s voice, his name too hideous for the worlds of water and land.

“The wise among you allow the beast to sleep and dare not tread near his nest for fear of waking him,” the Sybil continues. “The wise understand the promise of his power and fear his destruction. Wisdom possesses a potent awe of the beast and lets him lie.

“Seeker, know this, take this message back to those who sent you and those you love – the monster lives within you. You alone are his gatekeeper. You choose his waking and his sleeping.”

Her oracle spoken, she evaporates into the falling waters, only her wavering voice can now be heard, sounding more and more like the sea in its pitch and tumble. “You cannot un-see what you have seen, cannot un-hear what you have heard,” is her shouted benediction, before she disappears into the blackness of the deep.

The monster is in all of us and her breath is storm.

Be warned.