On the Outside: An Informal Look into Silent Hill 4

  • Reading time:3 min(s) read

by Eric-Jon Rössel Waugh

Today’s post is brought to you by Andrew Toups and the letter Æ.

People complain about Henry’s personality. I don’t get it. I mean, I do. There seems to be this idea that The Room is substantially more character-based than the earlier games, and that the tendency toward supreme understatement in all parties somehow undermines what emotional potential there might be. I don’t know how true that is, though. Taking the game for what it is, I get the idea that the characters are distant because they’re distant. Because that’s the nature of our interaction, as the player and as Henry Townsend.

See, Henry is a strangely normal guy; in a way, more typical than either Harry or James. He doesn’t have a dead wife and a lost daughter. He doesn’t have a dead wife and a crushing sense of guilt. He just has a bottle of white wine and a carton of chocolate milk in his fridge. He has no particular problems, outside his current predicament. Although compassionate for his part, he maintains his distance. As far as others are concerned, Henry’s role is of the bemused observer.

Although he’s not just a foil, Henry is a parallel for the player. You might call him a bit of a Raiden. Think of his circumstances in terms of Myst — with the Malkovich-holes in place of linking books. Notice how much of the game involves peeping — Henry, taking in his world indirectly, which we in turn take in indirectly through Henry. That is, except for the portions in room 302. Those, the most overtly Myst-like, we experience in the first-person. It is only when we leap through the holes, back into the game world, that Henry returns as a buffer.

In his relationship with others, Henry continues this role. He’s nice enough a person; it’s just, this isn’t his world. He’s busy living the life of the mind. Even when he’s standing next to Eileen, he’s still peeping. He’s not really there. He’s just watching.

It is this distance, and the safety it provides, which the game later tries to dissolve — for Henry and the player alike. When the game notices Henry is when it notices the player. When the darkness intrudes into room 302, it is intruding into the player’s own perceived safe space, where there is no Henry to fall back on.

For my part, I would find Henry’s conversations jarring if they were any less zoned-out. I would be distracted if the human relationships were any more satisfying. That would be too perfect. Perfection ruins any illusion. Henry would cease to be so very normal. He would become someone special. And he’s not. He’s no hero. He’s barely a protagonist. He’s just a twentysomething guy with white wine in his fridge. And at the end, Henry has resolved no personal problems. He remains the guy he always was. He just needs a new apartment.

What be Be, this Time?

  • Reading time:9 min(s) read

by Eric-Jon Rössel Waugh

I might as well paste this, as well. Being not as versed as I could be in modern physics, I have undoubtedly made several laughable errors here (providing proof of the theoretical model of the P-Brane). But this is what it is. I did edit that last paper, some; at the moment, however, I’m not going to bother updating the entry. As with the last paper, this one is a bit conversational.

Being is time, as Heidegger would have us understand. In fact, once this revelation is made clear it seems difficult to deny. What if, however, time were within our grasp? What, then, would Being be left to be?

I had been staring into space, as usual. The discussion was obviously on Kant, but somewhere between my bed and Nutting hall I had managed to fall asleep once again — or if I were still mostly awake, I was at least doing a good enough job at hiding that fact from myself. As usual, it was not so much for a lack of interest in the material — in fact, Kant was amongst the most interesting of topics we had covered all semester — so much as it was that I have the attention span of a deformed Sri Lankan wasp.

Out from what, at the moment, appeared to me to be nowhere, Professor Howard began to speak about time and human perception. I was lacking context, as I had managed to simply not hear most of what he had said up until that point. Nevertheless, undaunted, I triggered my usual classroom mechanism and attempted to piece together what was going on around me. (It should be of little surprise that I am so relatively adept at assembling puzzles out of shadows, as without this skill I would be very quickly lost down a storm drain or within an unfamiliar closet somewhere.)

Yes, it still appeared to be Kant we were discussing; it had to have been, as no one else studied in the course had been quite this out-there and yet oddly familiar. Exactly where we were within Kant was another mystery, but one of secondary importance and one that would likely evidence itself if I were to stay attentive for long enough a moment.

From early on, Kant had seemed uncannily close to breaking into a pupal form of phenomenology. One of the factors which had been causing me to curse my inattentiveness was that I was curious what the man had to say. Compared to the slightly bumbling likes of Descartes and Hume, and despite a two-hundred-year gap, Kant’s ideas had, to me, seemed quite modern and perceptive.

In this particular instance, as I mentioned, Professor Howard was discussing Kant’s views on time, insofar as how it would be related to the Self. Oh, wonderful, I thought. Perhaps my experience with Heidegger would be enough to allow me to fake my way through this if need be — with luck, even make it appear as if I am more insightful than I truly am. As it came about, I had neither need nor opportunity to obscure my cluelessness under heady references. And yet, my having slogged through (at least a large hunk of) Being and Time allowed me to very quickly orient myself within the conversation.

Although it was a step away from the connexion that Being is, in fact, time — or, rather conversely that zeit is sein — Kant seemed to come dangerously close to this claim with his observations about the limits of perception. We do not truly perceive time in itself, Kant more or less insisted, but rather measure it in terms of being. It is the fact that we happen to organize our understanding of the world along a line perpendicular to our perceptions that time, as we sense it, is assembled.

To put it another way, and to think in a non-Euclidean manner, our range of vision (to extend the metaphor to all of our perception) is limited to a very narrow range of signals. We are only able to sense a certain segment of the electromagnetic spectrum, between ultraviolet and infrared. Sounds above or below certain frequencies are entirely inaudible to us (a fact maddening to other conscious life forms, such as audiophiles). Our skin is only responsive to impact of a certain magnitude.

The list goes on, extending past sensory perception and into what it is technically possible for us to comprehend. We are unable to conceive of anything of which we have no prior experience, or which is in not some way at least inherent to us. Even the most inspired and creative of artists are merely drawing upon a tangled network of personal experience. In a sense, the more tangled and unsorted the web, the greater the intuition and either the impression of genius or eccentricity.

It is not so much that such a person’s ideas and impressions come from nowhere as it is that they merely come from odd, nonlinear connexions which others — with a more organized mind — are not in a position to comprehend. That the unusual would be obvious to an artist is not particularly a sign of special insight, but rather of an unconventional network — one which operates in much the same way as any “normal” mind, but which often not even the artist is able to fully comprehend due to the (to-him) alien criteria by which he is forced to analyze it.

Given these perceptual limitations, and given what post-relativistic physics have to offer the cultural collective, it would seem indeed at least plausible (or even probable) that our sight is further constrained in an even more important way: We are essentially trapped into three dimensions, out of anywhere from a theorized nine to an infinite number. Current theory on Calabi-Yau manifolds intends to explain all universal law through the intersection and bubbling of the primary nine-to-eleven dimensions (more are added whenever they seem to be needed). In a simplified manner, it has been seriously postulated that all that is, is the fabric of dimensional space.

Compared to all of the possibilities, it seems infuriating that our range of perception is so narrow. In a sense most irritating of all of the holes in our vision, would have to be time. We are fully aware of its existence; it affects us through every moment of our lives, so much that it is impossible for us to conceive of much of anything — from writing to music to even a still picture or calm sunset over a hill — outside of its influence. We are enrapt within time to the extent that we would not be under any other circumstances, without this linear space to organize and make sense of experience. In this sense, we are time in very much the way that Heidegger means. Or to put it another way, time (insofar as what we understand of it as a phenomenon) is one and the same as what we perceive as our Being.

Without time we would have no capability of even perceiving to begin with, and yet (as a mirror or perhaps merely an equation to the tricky question of our own Being) we have no direct perception of time itself. It is constantly pecking at our consciousness. We see it flitting away, we see its effects or its instants, and yet we are powerless to truly understand this dimension of our world in any means beyond notches on a wall.

As stated, this is a necessity — if we were able to perceive time, then again we would have no space in which to even perceive to begin with. But what if we were to see time, though? We can always ask the question, at least. In that event, we would likely see all of history in the same way that one would be able to view a mountain in the distance. The end of time, for us, would be equitable to the horizon. A being traveling through time would be to us not entirely unlike a car tearing down a highway toward us — while simultaneously bobbing through three-dimensional space. Perhaps to us it would appear similar to a two-dimensional cartoon, in which an object moves through what it considers to be three-dimensional space.

And yet, for such a progression to occur and for us to even comprehend this extra dimension of time, time (as we comprehend the idea) is still required as a reference, as made evident and obvious just by the example provided.

But wait — in this example, need it be time in which we are organizing our thoughts and perceptions? Going by current theory, we have still only barely used half of the universe available to us. Whatever perception we have of the remaining five dimensions would be more or less what we perceive now as matter, energy, natural law, and so forth — just as limiting, and yet as comforting, as always. Except, we would need some space to organize ourselves. Would it be too much trouble to simply adopt a fifth dimension as our new time? It would be beyond my comprehension as to what other obvious and fundamental elements of nature would be made vague and gossamer by the loss of one more assumed level of reality — but hey, it only is one more dimension. Surely the universal fundamentals could hang together well enough with the four-and-a-half that we leave up to assumption.

This would seem to be a workable system. It is not so much time that we need, as it is merely some kind of workspace; some allowance to organize the universe in such an order that it is sensible and that we are allowed to exist as beings. To be sure, as we are now — we are time. Or, rather, we are what we know of and refer to as time. And yet, it does not seem that time necessarily must be being, as such. Heidegger very much has the right idea, but I believe he might be extending his range just a bit far.

There is no imitation.

  • Reading time:3 min(s) read

Art is inseparable from life. Whether it is seen or not, everything inherently is art by its very fabric of being — all that can be made, done, said, and in some ways even thought. All that simply is, is itself in possession of some aesthetic qualifications, and in more than simply the superficial visual manner of a painting or sculpture. The very essence, or honed being, of existence, has its own scale of elegance. This simple observation points to the vital place aesthetic differentiation must play. If everything which is, is art — then what of those with no appreciation for this truth? Those with a complete void of taste, carelessly and ignorantly blundering through life, oblivious to their wake of destruction, and stains left behind on all with which they deal?

Consider the devoted hacker — the code whiz who has taught himself all that he knows and takes pride in the elegance and beauty of his code. Any program written by this person will be fast, clean, efficient, relatively bug-free, and will do precisely what it is meant to do — and it will do it right. Any errors which turn up will be quickly repaired, and the program will in the end be invisible to its user, allowing him to simply do what he needs to do without adding to his problems. The corporate programmer, trained second-hand, ignorant of the value of code itself and merely interested in getting paid at the end of the day, has no compunction to do his job right. If his code can be executed, and the program seems to run, then his job is complete and he no longer has to think about it. Due to this obliviousness and lack of care, we end up with bloated, bug-ridden software which runs slowly, interacts poorly with both the end user and his computer, and eventually gets in the way of the user’s goal of simply accomplishing his desired tasks.

The same general principles can be applied to anything from communication to driving to bodily movement to diet to science to logic to traditional art to one’s outlook on life and way of organizing thought. Art is so pervasive that good art — works of taste, of aesthetic value — is a valuable commodity. In general this world is a sloppy aesthetic wasteland — at least the manmade portion of it. It is sufficiently rare that people take heed of their actions and strive for the better and the more artful that any rare pockets of sophistication found become of great value.

In the depressing miasmal void of daily life, enlightenment and inspiration become beacons, showing the way to what is perhaps the most ideal universe; one where art, as a segregated concept, would be without need. For the world we have now, a sense of taste can be a curse, with art as the only oasis from the daily bombard and the only sympathetic voice in hell. Enlightenment can, however, be infectious, and inspiration comes in waves. With enough voices, the world might be changed for at least a short while. For this revolutionary goal, taste is the only weapon.