A Primal Scene

tunnel1Primal Scene
When I was a kid, I used to go to an old railroad tunnel near my hometown. It was old and its history was far longer than I could imagine. According to my father, it was built by Japanese military engineers during the World War 2 to transport spoils of war from North to south. During the Korean War, North Korean Army utilized it as a storehouse to keep their war-supplies. The US bombers dropped numerous bombs onto the tunnel, but the tunnel remained almost intact throughout the war.
Several decades later, the dark, cold, and ugly tunnel with a lot of bullet holes on it turned into a popular playground for kids. Once in a while, trains passed through the tunnel, but no one cared about the danger of the giant steel monsters. Rather the danger urged us to demonstrate how bravely we could deal with the fear.
The tactic was simple. Once you get in the tunnel, you should run until you come out through another end of the tunnel, where the light came into. We ran pretty fast because we did not want to be hit by a train. None of us had ever seen a tragic accident since we found the tunnel our amusement park, but most of us knew that somebody could be killed by trains.
Before I entered into the tunnel, I used to check out, pressing my ear on the railroad, whether a train was approaching or not. To be honest, what I heard from the cold railroad beam was nothing but subtle vibration of the earth. But I always used to say that “hey guys hurry up it’s coming soon.”
I was not so sure, but it was no big deal for us anyway, because it seemed to us that things already happened in the past. Wars, danger, or death… How could we possibly go through those things in the complete absence of the past, and how could we avoid them in the ruin of the past that kept recalling specters of the tragic past? “We were passive with respect to the disaster,” as Blanchot says. And “disaster was perhaps as passive as we were.” This is true, because it always comes to us as something that happened in the past, not today or tomorrow and not here or there. “The disaster – experience none can undergo – obliterate (while leaving perfectly intact) our relation to the world as presence or as absence.” (WD 120)
Every time I got into the abysmal darkness of the tunnel, I think, I might have seen one of my friends’ family who got killed by North Korean soldiers or one of my relatives’ boys who died in a tragic train accident. I think I saw all of those anonymous deaths. I tried to run away from them and I ended up having claustrophobia, a fear that comes out of myself that is confined in the deepest place of myself.
I remember we did the same ritual of the obsessive returning to the anonymous disasters all day long. We repeated it until we became finally satisfied with the knowledge that we have quite enough distance from the disaster. In repetition, we found our own safety from “the death of the Other: a double death.” It was fascination of something unspeakable.


~ by cjc128 on February 9, 2009.

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