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Goth Philosophy 101

The All-important Ennui

Home | The All-important Ennui | Gothic Music Never Existed

In gothic poetry, gothic culture, and gothic conversation, there is one word (other than "crepuscular") which is completely indespensible, for it lies at the root of all things gothic.  This word is ennui.

Ennui is a French word which has no precise equivalent in the English tongue.  It was popularized by the 19th century Romanticists and Symbolists, and it essentially describes a crushing sense of inescapable boredom, or a heavy spirit of gloom brought on by continuous routine, a desire for change, or listless inactivity. 
Gothicism is a reactionary movement by artistically-inclined individuals against the ennui caused by industrial consumer culture.  The various manifestations of this reaction are therefore most often concentrated in the midst of those things which themselves define industrial consumer culture: fashion, entertainment, popular art, etc.
The greatest ordeal facing the modern person is that of continuous and unabated boredom.  The mechanized nature of the modern world, exacerbated by the mechanized manner in which humans themselves are now made to function within the world, has reduced everything to the level of routine.  Those things which are uncommon, and are found to be good, are immediately produced on a mass scale, and thus in short order become mundane.  The capitalist system enforces discontentment.  To continue consuming, we must immediately become dissatisfied with the last thing we consumed.  We are overwhelmed with a revolving plethora of marvelous distractions, and without knowing the root of our anxiety, want desperately to reach a point of stillness and silence, with no more options, no more choices, no more garrish trivialities.
So gothicism contains symbols such as tombstones and stone grotesques, scenes of winter, scenes of repose.  That which is deep and still and quiet, is beloved of the goth.  But this is not owed to a shared morbidity as much as it is owed to a shared desperation for tranquility.  The goth, deep within himself, wishes for a cease-fire.  He would like the world to stop bombarding him with choices and decisions, transitory wants and momentary whims.  But being modern himself, and knowing nothing other than these things, he fashions his weapons after those by which he has been assaulted.  He fights the transitory with the transitory, the whim with the whim.  His battle-scars show in the form of cynicism.  He is well acquainted with futility.
I, like all goths, have been waging a war against boredom - against this inexorable ennui - for as long as I can recall.  I have switched uniforms, changed politics, converted to new religions, explored new occupations, and purchased thousands and thousands of dollars' worth of long since-discarded novelties, curiosities, and vanities.  But wherever I turn, ennui has followed me.  And though I draw sharper and brighter swords against it, ennui disarms me with a glance.  Ennui owns me, as it owns us all; we are puppets upon its cardboard stage.  We may seek out new climes and new costumes, but we can never sever our strings.  For we were born into these times.  We can no more alter ourselves than a fish can trade his scales for wings.  We know only what we are given to know.
The most terrible assault which ennui advances against us is that of the so-called personality crisis.  We are born into a society which would have us believe that a leopard can change his stripes, if he wants to.  Every one of us can be the President of the United States of America - if he can only go to the right college, have the right hair-cut, memorize the right speeches, and wear the perfect dark-blue suit.  A ghetto brat can be a billionaire, if he survives the streets and catches the right ears.  We are buffetted by ficitions; we absorb fairy tales as one absorbs radioctive rays, and there is no doubting that we are sick from it.  We if only we can alter ourselves, the whole world will change in turn.  If the fish gives himself wings, the sea will necessarily transmute into air, simply to accomodate him.
So we become accustomed to our uniforms, and set out early to purchase our way into superficial affiliations.  A single shopping trip will turn a geek into a hotshot; a flick of the scissors will make a hippie a jock.  It is therefore no difficult matter to assume the appearance of a goth, if one studies well and spends liberally.  And once you are gothic, no doubt - like the winged fish - your world will become gothic with you, and the waves of confusion which carried you to this shore will without doubt be quelled.  Reality will, at this point, achieve what it has always lacked before: namely, definition.
But we have tried this, haven't we?  We have altered our vestments only to look up and realize that we are yet held by the same strings; yet made to do the same dance upon the same bewildering stage.  We are still manipulated by our undefiable ennui.
So why are you still looking for uniforms to wear?  What else do you need but your own skin - your own mind?  Can you not trust these to steer you aright?  Why are you satisfied to appear as less than you are?  What use is a stereotype to anything but a mannequin or a clown?
In order for gothicism to succeed against ennuie - against predictability - it must be itself unpredictable.  If one can assume that, upon entering a goth club, he will see a room filled with persons dressed in black, then ennui has already succeeded against gothicism.  The cause has failed and must be abandoned.
This is why gothicism must not be allowed to remain a style, and must perforce move into the realm of philosophy.  Stagnant water is never fit to drink.

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