November 28th, 2005

breaking bad

Time loops and emotion

I was talking in the last post about Time Loop stories. One of the most thought provoking ideas about such stories that I have ever heard was from one of my friends who told me (years ago) that time loops are said to appeal to people who are dissociated. Dissociation is just a general term for separation of thoughts or feelings. It can just mean ability to concentrate on a book, it can mean post-traumatic stress, or it can be as dramatic as complete numbness and emotionlessness. The friend who was talking to me about it said that highly dissociated people can have dental procedures without anaesthetic.

I can see the link between time loops and dissociation. In a time loop story the protagonist is involved in an event but in a sense it is less real for him than for other people. He knows its going to happen again and again. This is just one contingent iteration of the event. His emotion is once removed. There is a meta-event - the loop - which is more real to him than the emotional impact of the things happening to him.

In this I think the protagonist of a time-loop story is also a bit like an intuitive person, for whom the meta-event can seem more real than the sensation of the moment. This can lead to an emotional dislocation from other people - you react emotionally at a different time from them. This is obviously different from dissociation because the intuitive person isn't split from their feelings - they just express them at a different point than others. They might get annoyed by the idea of an event, and then be relatively calm when the event actually happens.

This is why I think time travel and time loop stories can appeal to both intuitives and also to dissocated or traumatised individuals. I also include amnesia stories like Memento, which is a reverse of a time loop, but produces the same feeling of dislocation.
breaking bad

Literature and bereavement

A friend just asked me this question

If you could name one book that would most help you through a bereavement, what would it be?

I have found bereavement to be just something that one endures, and I don't know anything that helps one get through it. Poetry in general perhaps might help.

The Earthsea books helped me to think about bereavement and death, when I was a child, and most people my age didn't seem to be interested in discussing the subject (I hadn't been bereaved, I just had a morbid turn of mind). Le Guin says (I think) that what survives in the land of the dead is just the shell of the self, the name that distinguishes the self from the whole universe - a shell which is maintained by the artificial magical system of her invented universe. But life isn't the same as the name/shell, and at death the real life of a person just slips back into the ocean of being.

What books would you recommend?

ETA - this friend said 'you can ask your livejournal friends too'.