“Why is there something instead of nothing?”; or, Why did the Idea Cross The Void?; or then again, maybe just: Synchronic Apocalypse

(Soundtrack: Bobby Fuller–El Paso Rock, Volume One)

Creativity is a fascinating thing, no? Where do ideas come from? And how do they get here? (that little, flawed, intersubjective realm we call the “waking world”, I mean) Personally, I think this a far more interesting question than the one that has sidetracked western thought since about 400 BC: who had the first idea? You know–this week on A&E’s Platonic Investigations: the “Unmoved Mover” revealed!! (does anyone know if any bright transportation company has snatched up this Aristotelian monicker? “We’ll get you there America. Nothin’ gets to us!”)

Grant Morrison’s “Crawling From The Wreckage” is a stunning assault upon the ontological project (which is viewed as a “man made crisis founded upon human logical processes”)–stunning because it lays waste to western metaphysics without succumbing to the kind of cynicism/goofing around that you have to deal with in similarly-motivated twentieth-century philosophers like Heidegger or Derrida. This is why I think of Morrison as a descendant of Emerson: he channels all of his willpower into upholding the premise that there is something instead of nothing, while admitting that there’s no way we’re ever gonna get a clear fix on what that something is. It’s just the “Not Me”, and that’s enough. That’s my problem with Nietzsche (and “empowerment theorists” in general)–he thought Emerson was talking about the “Me”, when, in actuality, he was talking about everything but.

Okay, getting back to creativity. It’s a disease man! And narrative creation is by far the severest strain… The “villain” in “Crawling From the Wreckage” is a fictional construct, called Orqwith, which threatens to engulf the world. Morrison tells us:

Walk a hundred miles, a thousand miles, in any direction, and you will still be in Orqwith. The city has spread like ripples in a pond from one central point–the Quadrivium–which is itself the terrestrial image of the God at the Crossroads. And in the center of the Quadrivium stands the Ossuary, the great Cathedral of Orqwith(DP #22, 1).

The “cathedral of bone” is human memory. All storytelling is an attempt to assemble the fossilized remains of past experiences into a thing that makes sense to the narrator. And so we’re back to the problem of making something out of nothing… Echoes out of the void? Rose is surely right to argue that we tell stories (even if it’s only to ourselves) in order to prove that “the Me” exists; however, that same process poses a constant threat to the “Not Me”, and it’s important to remain aware of this fact. The point at which we find ourselves saying, “ah ha! So that’s why that happened”, is ground zero…and every nod of the head sends another shock wave through the world. The perfect work of art qua work of art would account for everything, stop time, and devour our communal reality. That’s what Orqwith threatens to do. A little later on in the Doom Patrol series, we’ll get to “The Painting That Ate Paris”, an even more successful product of the visionary impulse.

Gotta go! But I’m not done with this series, despite the sad fact that I’m missing far too many issues to perform the kind of analysis that I would like to…Ah well, someday!

Oh yes, one final noteRose and Steven have picked up The Blithedale Romance. I can’t wait to hear what they think!

Good afternoon friends!


  1. Nothing on the clear influence of Borges on this story?

    Or are you going to address that in one of the later issues?

    Jess Nevins

  2. I recently just picked up almost the whole morrison run. I’m missing the beginning and a few from the middle though. I got them all for a dollar an issue.

  3. Jess,

    Well, you’ve convinced me that I ought to read some Borges–I’ve read a lot about him, but I’ve never read the man himself… I’m borrowing the Collected Fictions right now!

    And you’re right, of course, Morrison clearly owes a debt to Borges…


  4. Oh, Dave, you have to read Borges! It probably works best when you’re an impressionable teenager, but it’s fun stuff always.

    And so far so good on The Blithedale Romance, though I probably shouldn’t identify with Zenobia as strongly as I do; I’m setting myself up for trouble. I’m glad you recommended it, because I don’t think I’d have found it on my own.


  5. I don’t have my copy of Labyrinths with me, but I’m pretty sure that both the name and the concept of Orqwith come directly from Borges.

    Funny I should only pick up on this now, even though I read the whole DP run a few years back, closer in time to when I last read Borges.

  6. Dave–

    To quote Alan Moore, “To think of someone passing their lives reading fantasy stories and not reading Borges is kind of tragic.” You’re in for a mindblowing, wonderful experience.

    And after Borges, Flann O’Brien.

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