Once upon a time on this blog, I used to have an animation of a man falling. Well here it is updated with modern browser technology. See I'm not just a pretty face. The falling man signifies that feeling we get in the middle of angst. The drop in the stomach. The desperate need to dig our nails into the wall of the well, as we slip into oblivion. It may hurt. It may be painful. But the terror of the blackness is a source of greater pain. Why do we flail so?
Another metaphor I favour is that of the floundering fish. The water recedes and he finds himself in the mud, trapped in an alien and hostile environment. What can he do? The only thing he has ever done. Move his mouth in that bobbing fashion or thrash his tail and fins. Behaviours that once kept him alive are now grotesquely ineffectual. In those moments before death in the hot sun, just before the birds realise there is a morsel to be consumed, maybe, just maybe he will find his way back into the water...
Angst is a normal part of existence. If you don't feel it, good for you. But if you do, well it's not necessarily something inappropriate. You stare into the abyss and the abyss stares back (thanks Nietzsche for that one). You stand over a precipice and your stomach drops. It's normal. Fear of death, fear of annihilation, even just angst at the absurdity of existence: perfectly reasonable to find it overwhelming.
Talking of falling, one of my favourite quotes is by the well known scientist J.B.S. Haldane (from Possible Worlds and Other Essays):
You can drop a mouse down a thousand-yard mine shaft; and, on arriving at the bottom, it gets a slight shock and walks away. A rat would probably be killed, though it can fall safely from the eleventh story of a building; a man is killed, a horse splashes.Go Top