“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents… some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new Dark Age.”
― H.P. Lovecraft
March Madness is in full effect. I’m not talking about the NCAA basketball tournament–although I do love watching that tourney. No, I’m talking about fans across the world remembering and celebrating the life and death of one of the most (if not the most) influential horror writer who ever lived, H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft, the creator of the Cthulhu Mythos and the “Cosmic Horror” sub-genre, only gain fame posthumously and died back in 1937 on March fifteenth after having a pretty unimpressive writing career and dying in poverty.
I think my fans are pretty familiar with Lovecraft’s works, and at the very least his main themes. Perhaps my favorite theme of his is that of madness–of looking so deeply into the abyss or into the face of pure evil that it drives one mad. But did you also know that Lovecraft used the word “madness” one hundred and fifteen times in his writings? There are only four other words that he used more than “madness.” He used “antiquarian” one hundred and twenty-eight times; “fainted” and “fainting” one hundred and eighty-nine times; “hideous” two hundred and sixty times; and “nameless” one hundred and fifty-seven times. But I am most intrigued with his theme of madness and insanity. In many of Lovecraft’s stories, characters are stricken with madness when they are confronted either with the truth of reality or with some kind of unspeakable evil that the mind simply cannot understand.
There is an unmistakable connection in Lovecraft’s writings between meaning and madness. Characters in his stories rarely, if ever, understand what is happening to them. Sometimes the madness, or insanity, results from the characters trying to understand, and other times the madness is a result of actually understanding. There is also the unmistakable connection between the fragile nature of sanity and of vulnerability. Characters in many of Lovecraft’s stories are unable to cope mentally with the unusual, remarkable, and downright incomprehensible truths they confront, whether face-to-face or second-handed. The mental strain of trying to cope with such truths is, Lovecraft shows time and again, impossible to bear and madness often takes hold.
So enjoy your NCAA March Madness basketball tournament, but remember that lurking just behind the veneer of reality lies truths that human beings were never meant to witness or understand. True March Madness is right around the corner.
What are your favorite H.P. Lovecraft themes? What are your favorite Lovecraft books/novellas? Sign off in the comments section below.
“If I am mad, it is mercy! May the gods pity the man who in his callousness can remain sane to the hideous end!”
― H.P. Lovecraft,