Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Secret Ingredient

“How much blood and horror lies at the basis of all ‘good things’…”
-Friedrich Nietzsche

My morning coffee, you tell me, has a secret ingredient most foul: cockroaches infesting grinding facilities are routinely eviscerated, peppering the sunniest day’s house blend with the finely ground flesh and bone of a creature more at home in science fiction than in your friendly corner coffee shop. (Or so you mistakenly suggest, as if these carefully polished surfaces were not the quintessence of science fiction!) You aim to repulse me, as if I’m unaware that my corporeality even in the present hosts infinitely more tentacles and antennae than any cup of coffee could, even those sized “Extra-Large”. You further disdain to accept that the freshly painted walls and sparkling surfaces of urban settlement which bring you such comfort conceal infestations more rampant than those will one day consume and digest our rotting flesh at the height of putrescence. 

Far from repulsed, your cautionary note and all that it evokes embolden me. Fearful of this perennially menacing other of the urban underbelly, I have long dreaded every chance meeting with such a distant and dissimilar a cousin of my own species. Accordingly I awaited  with displaced anxiety any surprise encounter: whether my imagined contact be alive and animated in a manner most unfamiliar to my own; or, having solitarily deposited its carcass, as many of us animals do, in the wilderness beyond its home settlement--which, to me, is the open floor-space of my otherwise tidy living space. Little did I know, in fearing these creatures whether living or dead, that each morning I inoculate myself against this fear, cup by cup! I inoculate myself against the curse of unfamiliarity, which is the root of that anxious insecurity which nags from the most stygian shadows of each fresh adumbration in our boundlessly dark universe.

I face ahead unburdened of the fear of that which menaces coherence and comfort. Unfettered in this way, I casually shed my prejudices like some disposable appendage tottered about and discarded by a creature most remote to my own physical form. It is even tempting to envy the ease with which these scourges trouble the precarious facades of human civilization. If only I could disrupt order in this way! I defer to these masters, and do so unafraid. How can I fear the foreignness of those whose blood and bones I drink each day, with extreme pleasure? Once afraid of the secret ingredient, I now anticipate the anxiety which once left me paralyzed, not by denying the existence of this ingredient, but by drinking its nectar black, and to the dregs--with gusto!

[Originally appeared in Death Panel Literary Digest I, 2009.]