Thoughts on the Incredible Shrinking Manon Dec 07 in Blog Post by johnhornor
This blog post aired on the Bastardized Version sometime in 2009, before agent, book deal. It’s pretty self-important.
As I’ve grown older, I often look back on my adolescence with fondness and nostalgia. I know for many people, their formative years were painful and full of memories that they’d rather forget; the awkwardness, the clumsy initiations into the adult world, the failures and embarrassments. I have my share of those memories, but on the whole, I had a wonderful childhood and adolescence. For that, I must thank my parents, who remain together even after all this time.
In David McCollough’s biography of John Adams, he likens Adams’ childhood before college to a long, dream-like picnic, or hunting expedition. My early years were somewhat like that. It’s debatable if I was a real person at that point in my life; I think of myself, then, as a disjointed collection of emotions, impulses, and intellect in the shape of a man, like a smart computer just before the singularity. Was I a real person? Sure. But maybe not self-aware.
Western children hold in our spongy craniums an ideal of life untempered by experience. We’ve formulated what we know of the world through the myths our parents spoon feed us with our porridge, we receive messages filtered through the hypnotic images on television, seared into our subconscious by what we read. Some images are good foundations of right and wrong: other ideas are perniciously harmless; ideals of beauty, love, honor, self-worth. I don’t know if it’s because of this, or if it is a corollary symptom, but I was singularly ill-prepared for real life in adolescence and into adulthood.
I’m not going to cite examples. Just trust me on this one.
I have children, so these things have been on my mind.
The one thing I’m amazed by is the fierceness of both my daughter’s opinions. Here they are, seemingly scant moments since being one of my urges, made flesh and argumentative. They have firm beliefs of the boundaries right and wrong (though their willness to transgress those boundaries depends on whether I’m watching or not). My daughter, Rojo, in particular, has opinions about things that are damned near calcified in her cute little noggin. She has the audacity to correct me in my behaviors – in this way she resembles her mother – but (also like her mother) she’s usually correct.
But she is a child and unwilling to compromise because of the purity of her belief. To her, there’s no experience to discount lying is wrong in all circumstances, that love is something overpowering, thunderous and inevitable, that the world will unfold itself before her, just because she wishes it so. That things must be fair. When did the world disabuse you of the concept of fair? Ten? Twelve? Eighteen?
She’s beautiful, and innocent. I die a little bit every time that innocence is crushed by real life.
The great poet John Keats had a theory about the mind of a artist. It is the theory of negative capability. According to Keats, negative capability is the ability of the artist to hold conflicting ideas and images in his head, simultaneously, and by doing so divorce himself from the ever-present need to search for meaning and be able to live with mystery, uncertainty. Keats said this in a letter:
I had not a dispute but a disquisition with Dilke, on various subjects; several things dovetailed in my mind, & at once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in literature & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously – I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.
In some ways, negative capability is what separates an adult from a child. Adults, through experience, are forced to compromise. We live in a fallen world where, to survive, one has to accept certain unfortunate realities. Maybe accept isn’t correct. We have to acknowledge the possibility of forces in opposition to our desires. And through acknowledgment comes an acceptance.
This isn’t the cheeriest of outlooks, granted. The world beats you down and you cease to care about the whys and wherefores.
Paul said, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man I put away childish things.” That bit has always made me sad. Neotany has always been an adaptive trait.
I bring all this up because even today, my childish beliefs and world-view war with my experience. I’m not a Buddhist, but many Buddhist beliefs put me at ease. The Noble Truths, the acceptance of mystery, is an innate part of spirituality. The childish part of me loves reason because it is comforting in its invariability. Living with mystery, living with conflict both external and internal is frightening. This is the realm of the adult. Gods help you if you’re a child and come to this state.
I’m reminded of the end of The Incredible Shrinking Man, where the protagonist realizes that the infinite and the infinitesimal are two sides of the same coin, and as he realizes this, his body disappears and he transcends. This is negative capability.
Believing there are answers is the hardest thing to give up.
Ok, the Incredible Shrinking Man has to invoke God and gives a bullshit nonsensical answer about presuming on nature. Just ignore that and move on. Richard Matheson (I Am Legend) penned this, I believe.
I guess this ramble is done. I probably should’ve titled this “Note to Self” just because, like most journal entries, it was written more for my benefit than for yours. My next blog will be entitled, “The Whorishness of Blogging: Exhibitionism and Self-Indulgence on the Electric Frontier.”
How the hell does that work, shrinking? Obviously, this was a fifties movie and everything was “atomic” this and “blast of radiation” that. But, this movie, Fantastic Voyage, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, all have the same flaw. They’ve never explained the shrinkage to my satisfaction.
But did they even think about how someone could shrink, like Treehorn? At least Treehorn didn’t become miniscule.
Does everything shrink? Molecules, atoms, the essential stuff of creation? Doubtful. The particles would cease to function the correct way. Hell, if you made an atom smaller, you might cause it to release its energy and the “shrinking” man would quickly become the “expanding fireball” man.
No, it’s patently obvious he’s not actually shrinking.
These are the things I like to think about on my drive to work.
Maybe he’s really the “increasing density” man. In reality, our bodies are like handfulls of bubbles in a bubble-bath, full of space between particles. We only have the illusion of solidity. We’re really like ghosts.
Maybe the space between his particles is decreasing, collapsing, and he remains the same weight, but just occupies less space. No one could pick him up. He’d be like an 180 pound Ken doll. He’d break tables and chairs, if he could get on them, because all that weight would be focused on one point on the furniture. He could probably fuck up the giant cat really bad. If he swung his fist, it’d have the inertia, due to the mass, of a full grown man’s fist. If he hit you, hard, it’d probably be like a needle prick, going through your skin.
Setting him up in a toyhouse to live wouldn’t be possible, unless it was made of stainless steel. Just sitting on plastic or wooden toy furniture would cause it to shatter or crumble. He’s sleeping on the floor for the rest of his short (excuse the pun) life.
He’d never be comfortable in his clothes again. The weave on the thread would be like sandpaper. Even with super nice, high thread count sheets. To him, it’d be corrosive. He’d probably just strip naked for comfort’s sake. At least no one would ridicule him about his tiny penis. Well, not to his face.
He’s never getting laid again, unless a little super dense lady got shrunk down to his size as well; she’d be equally as dense. Or dude, if that turns you on. It’d be awesome if the little lady had started her shrinkage before he did, if you know what I mean
He might be able to hump a Bratz or Barbie doll for a while except they don’t have any holes. And they couldn’t bear his weight even if they did. He still weighs 180. His dick alone would tear Barbie in half – if it didn’t, his pelvis would smash hers flat.
What could bear his weight? When he came, the splooge would be super dense and probably blow a hole in where ever he was sticking it.
Yeah, no nookie for little man, anymore.
But he doesn’t need nookie because he’s gonna die soon, anyway. His brain is shutting down, I think. The electro-chemical reactions in his brain are evolved to a certain density, and as the spacing between synapses closes, the chemicals react in different ways.
That’d be cool if he went stark raving mad. Became a murderous little dude.
Huh, but what if that made his brain function better? Less space between synapses and neurons, and he became super intelligent, god-like, in his intelligence? That’d be sweet. I guess brain chemistry doesn’t work like that, though.
Yeah, but the no nookie thing really sucks.
But even if his brain functioned, free radicals would riddle his body with cancer. Normally, radiation passes right through us, like sunlight through a glass of water, maybe nicking a cell or mitochondria and causing a proto-cancer, but for our super dense little friend, if he’s in direct sunlight even a little bit, he’s dead meat. A very small pile of dead meat.
Speaking of meat, if all the other things didn’t kill him, he’d starve to death. He’d want sugar all the time. He still has as much flesh as a full grown man and still needs to ingest 2000 calories worth of food a day, but his stomach can hold a thimbleful, maybe.
Poor little fella. It’s a good thing people can’t actually shrink.
Note, in the original post, my good friend Kent Allard – aka Joe Howe – pointed out that ultimately, the incredible shrinking man would become a black hole. I argued for a while until he pulled out the Wikipedia article and put the smack down on me. Dagnabbit, he was right. He has a annoying habit of always being right.