Monday, October 24, 2005

The Scary Corner

There is a corner of San Francisco where it is Halloween all year long. In the Outer Mission, my friends Bodhi and Jeff have created a ghoulish nook in their apartment. In the corner they have hung a lurid painting of a horned demon, as well as a ouija board and a collection of throwing stars. They’ve also nailed up a tiny mirror with a pewter woman gazing into it. If you peer at her reflection, you see that her face is a skull. In addition, there are various portraits and figurines of clowns, some sad, some grinning, all striking fear into the onlooker in the way that only clowns can.

When I first visited their apartment, Bodhi told me that this part of it was called the “Scary Corner.” The Scary Corner was a shrine to what frightens us most (and thus, ultimately, to death itself). The Scary Corner was a memento mori, like the skull in a still-life of fruit, or Corpse Pose in yoga.

At first I did not like the Scary Corner, and tried not look at it as I passed it on the way to the bathroom. But over time, the Scary Corner became less scary. It turns out that if you incorporate death into the décor, you transform it into something comparatively harmless—kitsch. In fact, the Scary Corner actually made the rest of the apartment seem cozier.

As a child, I tried to make my rocking horse less frightening by hanging a pair of knickers on its head. Instead, it looked more terrifying still. I learned that you should not try to conceal your fears, since that makes them even worse. But as an adult I’d forgotten this lesson. Now, instead of ignoring my fears, or worse, trying to hide them under a pair of knickers, I think I may create a shrine to them. I can only hope that one Scary Corner in my apartment will mean fewer scary corners in my soul.


Anonymous Jeffrey said...

After I finish writing this comment, I am off to go and have a stare-down with a clown. The clown will probably win. He always does. <sigh>

9:28 PM  

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