Palahniuk gives Ira Levin a reach around

Ever heard of “narcotization”? In a short essay by Chuck Palahniuk, he describes narcotization as, “When the problem looks too big, when we’re shown too much reality, we tend to shut down. We become resigned. We fail to take any action because disaster seems so inevitable. We’re trapped. This is narcotization.”

Palahniuk opens the essay by describing a study of three groups of people shown pictures of different mouths and gums. One group was shown moderately healthy gums, and the group continued with their regular brushing and flossing routines. The second group was shown relatively worse gums, and they tended to increase their regimen to be more caring. The third group were shown the nastiest, bloodiest gums you could imagine, and their regimins dropped into the toilet.

That’s narcotization. It’s when the situation looks so bleak that the human mind gives up. I would imagine this is why those black tar lungs don’t really work when printed on packs of cigarettes in Europe. I mean, a black lung is staring at European smokers in the face, and they STILL tug another cigarette out and light up.

Palahniuk uses this opening to give author, songwriter and dramatist a reach around. He says, “In a culture where people get too scared to face gum disease, how do you get them to face anything? Pollution? Equal rights? And how do you prompt them to fight?

“This is what you, Mr. Ira Levin, do so very well. In a word, you charm people.”

Levin wrote books like “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Stepford Wives” and “Sliver.”

“On our lunch breaks, waiting for a bus, lying in bed, you have us face these Big Issues, and fighting them,” explains Palahniuk.

“In ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ published in 1967, the battle is over woman’s right to control her own body. The right to good health care. And the right to choose an abortion. She’s controlled by her religion, by her husband, by her male best friend, by her male obstetrician. All this you got people to read – to pay money to read – years before the feminist health-care movement.”

Palahniuk’s point is that Levin used creepy horror to change minds. To make headway with real issues that matter, average people need the right amount of horror to change their minds.

I got a lot out of this essay, but I’m going to relay three points.

  1. Read. I should read an Ira Levin book as soon as possible.
  2. Charm. To make headway with issues Levin believed in, he charmed his readers. I know I’m a dick quite a bit, but I try really hard to be charming and kind rather than pompous and smug. This essay encourages me to lean more toward kindness, but the occasional zinger or harsh statement might still rear its head.
  3. Narcotization. Face anyone with something as mesmerizing and brilliant as the universe, people shut down and say, “Well, then, god did it.” When explaining something as big and wonderful as evolution, that’s too much reality, “So god must have done it.” When shown global warming and the amount of research it took to get to the theories science has reached, it’s easier to blow it off instead of researching it. Knowledge takes work. Hard work. Staying the same is easy. Believing what those who have come before teach, that’s easy. Picking up ten books from ten perspectives on one topic, that’s hard. When faced with that challenge, it’s easiest to just read the books that support one view.

Or maybe you think I’m falling short because I am faced with the bigness of god and shutting down. Perhaps you think I’m the hypocrite here. I’d like to know. I’d like real recommendations for for information, books, articles, ideas that have helped form your views. I don’t care if you just jot down a title and run away without explanation. I’m hungry for information.

Or maybe you think I’m not smug enough, and smug makes headway. Tell me what you think. Otherwise, how would I know?

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    2 thoughts on “Palahniuk gives Ira Levin a reach around

    1. I think you just defined Atheism :) The problem of death is so big that they just give up and accept the inevitable fact that there is nothing they can do to avoid it.

      The concept of God is also so big that they just give up and accept the fact that they cannot know God by placing him under the microscope like all other created things.

      The fact is though that the problem is not too big for God. God has given us a way to enjoy His love for eternity. Don’t miss out!

      God Bless…

    2. Yes, atheists accept the inevitable fact of death. Spot on. I shall nickname you Master of the Obvious. :)

      I expect you to say things like “The concept of God is so big” and phenomena such as narcotization prevent atheists from experiencing him. How is it that you explain that 22 years or more of my life I loved and adored Jesus/God/The Spirit?

      Did the “devil” get me? He lied to me and showed he was much more POWERFUL than god?

      Really?

      Boo!

      I expect blanket negation from you. Your efforts are hardly intimidating or thought provoking.

      I expect more, zdenny. Much more. There are Christians posting on this blog who are much smarter, much more interesting, and speaking much more erudite for faith than you ever have. Pick it up, Z. You’re falling behind.

      As for death, I’m far from worried. For all time before I was conceived and born, I was nought. That, too, is my fate — and yours — after we pass. Trivialize it or flounder with flimsy retort all you want. Dragoon me, you will not.

      I’m happy that you’ve found that last part about god and eternity. It’s not that it doesn’t make sense to me. It’s that I’ve grown away from supernatural thoughts.

      Besides, I’m still waiting on you to answer all kinds of questions i made in previous responses, and for you to provide citations for references where you make bold claims without them. Take your time. Apparently you’ve got all eternity, but I only have till my ticker runs out. Set your goals accordingly.

      Fromage.

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