Brain Dropping #77
Fear of Empty Space. In art criticism it’s called by its Latin name – “Horror Vacui.” It is one of the explanations for the pre-historic cave paintings of Lascaux in France and Altamira in Spain. Staring at the bare wall, it is speculated, had a negative psychological effect compelling the first artist to pick up a piece of burnt wood and begin sketching the elements of his hunter-gatherer existence on the rock in front of him or her.
Flash forward forty or fifty thousand years and we see the same compulsion to fill emptiness with images, or in the case of modern technology, with moving images plus sound. If anything, the fear of empty moments or silences has become has become more desperate. Look around you the next time you’re in a public gathering place, a subway, a mall or a busy street, and take notice of folks of all generations glued to their smart phones or iPads. I’ve actually observed a table in a diner occupied by teen-agers who were texting each other rather than talking. The very few people I see sitting quietly, intently observing their surroundings, are usually homeless folks panhandling for change.
“Horror Vacui” is also the guiding principle of our media, whether its print or electronic. Sunday’s New York Times, for instance, has about two or three pages worth of news of vital interest to the general public – the rest I would categorize as useless fluff, unless, of course you’re interested in the obscene opulence of a Wall Street hedge fund manager’s South Hampton mansion by the sea, or Lindsey Lohan’s latest sexual encounter, or a restaurant serving poisonous blowfish filets. “All The News That’s Fit To Print” is the motto on the NYT masthead – more appropriately it should be “All The News We’ll Print To Fit.” The pathetic fact is that the NYT needs shallow filler stories to plump out the paper so that it has room for its very profitable, high-end advertisements.
The ultimate venue for time/space filling fluff, meaningless moronic blather, to lull the listener into a state of blissful ignorance, is without a doubt the holy trinity of bullshit, the radio,TV and the internet. The urgency to avoid silences, to seduce the audience into exposing itself to fraudulent commercials and half-assed political harangues, becomes pathological. Would it not be amazing if the latest anchor of the nightly news courageously announced: “Folks, that is all the really important weather and news tonight. For the next fifteen minutes we will have complete silence during which you might think about today’s events or do some deep breathing meditation to calm any anxieties you may have.”