Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Banishment Of Angst And Chicken Teeth

So if there is something I can definitely do without in the New Year, (next to reality television, half-hour advertorials on the splendors of blenders and hair removal product commercials) I'd have to say it would be angst.

To imagine what inward angst would sound like, I offer the Wilhelm scream, a sound effect that has been replicated in over 225 movies, television shows and video games since it's creation in 1951:
Angst (literally German, Dutch, Danish and Norwegian for "fear") has been around since before Christ was a cowboy but Danish philosopher Søren Kirkegaard (1813-1855) put a name to it and French writers, Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus brought it to the mainstream consciousness in the early Twentieth Century. Then, James Dean demonstrated teen angst brilliantly in the fifties. Since then, with the emergence of individualism and the "me generation" it's been a right of passage for people to look inside themselves for something of worth in relation to the world around them. When they don't find it, it's their right to claim they suffer from angst.

Philosophically speaking, angst is an existential (ie: "why am I here?") condition which can be defined as "the crisis of human existence." It's the individual trying to reconcile their place in relation to society.

If you're an artist it has become quite expected that you suffer from this affliction, lest you and your work be seen as shallow. The idea that being an artist automatically means suffering for your art is so ingrained in our society's norms that if you are a happy, joyous artist it means you must be overcompensating for a deep gash in your psyche... or you're just faking being an artist.

So we do angst. Or most of us do. Some, who are true masters in the angst craft, don't just suffer proper philosophical angst in silence. They take it to the second level, to something called "wangst", which is either "whiny angst" or "wanky angst" (depending on what side of the pond you're from). In order to perform this advanced degree of angst properly it must be as evident as false teeth on a chicken.

Suffering from philosophical angst, need not only be self centered, but it must be a pain in society's collective butt. It must be something that those from my father's generation (who were pretty cut and dried about emotional stuff) would not think twice about a good swift kick in the nether regions and demands to get out and find a real job.

So, in 2012, angst is gone from my repertoire of suffering techniques. It shouldn't be that hard to do because a number of years ago while going through a "Keep It Simple" thing I put the angst thing aside. This year, after being through some sh*t that makes Bambi Meets Godzilla look tame in comparison and not taking angst down from the shelf once, I decided I simply don't need it around anymore. So this coming year it's toast. It just complicates things when I figure I should be concentrating on the things that cause angst in the first place.

To me angst is like fixating over the big hole in the ground after the bomb has gone off.

And I figure on being the bomb.

6 comments:

  1. Vonnegut's coined term, "existenital hum" seems to spell it out for me. I keep wishing the world would shut the hell up for a few seconds.

    I wish you well in your quest to rid yourself of angst. I think it is simply a condition of the human. Although I suppose either a lobotomy or judicious use of single malt scotches could work well towards reducing it.

    Happy New Year Sir!

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  2. In french, we call it “angoisse existentielle”. I don't think that translating it litterally into “existential anxiety” would be a bad translation.
    Trying to have some sort of constructive communication with someone under the spleen would be like trying to give an orgasm to an inflatable sex doll.
    Luc St-Pierre

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  3. You didn't mention the highly irritable, angry, bitchy angst. That seems to be a phase I go through when I'm sick of the whiny kind. Really bad art is usually the result. It's almost solstice. Light a candle and know that the days will have more sunshine soon!

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  4. Sparks 'Angst In My Pants' lyrics
    (Ron & Russell Mael)

    I hope it doesn't show
    It'll go 'way
    It's just a passing phase
    It'll go 'way

    You can dress nautical
    Learn to tie knots
    Take lots of Dramamine
    Out on your yacht
    But when you're all alone
    And nothing bites
    You'll wish you stayed at home
    With someone nice
    But when you think you made it disappear
    It comes again, "Hello, I'm here" and
    I've got angst in my pants

    You can be smart as hell
    Know how to add
    Know how to figure things
    On yellow pads
    Answer so no one knows
    What you just said
    But when you're all alone
    You and your head
    What's the computer say, it's mumbling now
    It says "hey Joe"
    It's spelled it out and
    "You've got angst in your pants"
    "You've got angst in your pants"

    But when you think you've made it disappear
    You're sure you made it disappear
    And you've still got angst in your pants

    I hope it doesn't show
    It'll go 'way
    It's just a passing phase
    It'll go 'way
    I hope it doesn't show
    It'll go 'way
    Give it a hundred years
    It won't go 'way
    And I've got angst in my pants
    I've got angst in my pants

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  5. Now there's a New Year's resolution to be proud of, Rand: let's forget about borrowing trouble and settle on eliminating it before it happens.

    That's a pretty tall order, but oh so much more constructive.

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  6. sort of like 'sex', each generation thinks they invented it but Angst was huge during the Romantic era. Goethe wrote a bestseller called "the Sufferings of Young Werther" that literally had young men running to their haberdasheries buying blue suits and pistols and, well, shooting themselves on account of the protagonist within the pages. Suffering it seemed was "tres cool"; though they could not be reached for comment after the fact.

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