It’s been a long time since a book has stuck with me so completely as Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. I finished it days ago but I still find myself a little verklempt. I’ve never read anything like this book in my entire life. I laid in bed for over an hour upon finishing it, just tossing and turning and thinking about everything I had just consumed. It is one of the most aesthetically pleasing, and at the same, time terrifying piece of literature I’ve ever read. I still don’t think I can put my feelings into words, but I can say this book was a cathartic experience for me, and the irony of the word “catharsis” being a Greek rooted word is not lost on me, because if this book is anything it’s a modern-day Greek tragedy.
Nietzsche has theory is that the ancient Greeks attained such a high level of culture mainly due to their personal struggle between the opposing philosophies of Apollo and Dionysus; Apollo being the god of art, and thus, stagnation, while Dionysus is the god of debauchery and barbarism, and thus, action. This struggle between appreciation for art and culture and a zeal for living is what Nietzsche credits for the Greeks’ impressive progress. He also believed that the only way we can progress today is to swing the pendulum toward Dionysus.
“Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it. And what could be more terrifying and beautiful, to souls like the Greeks or our own, than to lose control completely? To throw off the chains of being for an instant, to shatter the accident of our mortal selves?”
We don’t like to admit it, but the idea of losing control is one that fascinates controlled people more than almost anything.
Remember the cheesy 80s movie Dirty Dancing? When Johnny tells Baby ‘You gotta hold the frame”. When a good lead takes a hold of me, it is only the slightest touch that tells me where I need to go. It’s in their innate confidence, the way they own and control their space. In the arms of a strong lead who holds the frame, I can let go of the relentless turn of my thoughts, of the need to control, of the way life holds me inside of myself. I can become so entirely embodied that there is no longer myself, my partner, the room. There is only the all and the everything of bodies and sensation and freedom. This is the power of surrender, of acquiescence. Give me this in the world, in the spaces where no one else exists. And when I let go, fully let go, I am infinite.