"Thunder" (AKA "Manticore") by Kelly J. Cooper
23 August 1996
A manticore is a creature that eats human flesh... the name literally translates I'm told. Makes me think of that man in the midwest who was eating people. But manticores are supposed to have the head of a man, the body of a lion and the tail of a dragon or scorpion.
Many predators bound into a single predator - a hunter of humans. (There aren't many of those left. We reserve a special sort of savagery for the killing of human-eaters.)
I wonder if the idea of a manticore came from the inability to comprehend humans who would kill and eat other humans. A human face on top of a big killer-cat body. I wonder this because I've been thinking a lot about tragedy and our perceptions of the world right now as a strange and cruel place. One of Dale's recent .sig quotes was sort of the trigger:
In the story of The Curse of The House of Atrius, there were at least 2 instances of a vengeful person cutting up the child of another (the source of the killer's anger of course) and then feeding them the flesh of their own progeny as a "peace" dinner. (The recipients of the dinner invitation always make a bitterly ironic comment about how tasty the stew is). The story is well over 2000 years old. (I had no idea that Jesus was such a well organized dissident - yet we "rediscover" these same smoothly non-violent responses over & over).
Curses, monsters, the jealousy & anger of the gods... primitive understanding or justification? The mountain exploded because we didn't perform the right ritual. I cut my finger because god is angry with me. You have a disease because you are impure.
There's an almost imperceptible line between believe and disbelief - the thickness of the hair on a horse's head where it meets a horn and becomes a unicorn. If I believe in goodness and purity and love and then, by extension, believe in unicorns, do I make them exist with the power of my belief? Or does the strength of my conviction make the world over _as if_ it were a place where they _could_ exist? (Or am I simply a dreamy git with too much time on her hands?)
Is god really angry when I cut my finger or does the strength of my believe make this entity real enough that I subconsciously punish myself?
The difference is subtle and I don't think I'm doing justice to it with my explanation. It's a reality laden with potentiality, but also... perhaps naivete is the right word?
If I believe in unicorns, perhaps I believe in dragons and manticores and I could be making the world a more magical place. (Or, to make it more topical and certainly more politically explosive, if I believe in Jesus as my own personal savior, literally the son of god and symbol of all that's good on the earth, by extension the bible's got it straight and the devil with all his reputed ill will is the source of evil on the planet. And my world becomes a more righteous place).
If I believe in manticores then I can _destroy_ them, you see. If I believe in the devil I can do battle with him. There is a seductive peace, a subtle power in being able to NAME your foe. (The magi knew it - to call a demon & control it you had to have its TRUE name; Spider Robinson picked it up in the 70's - to exorcise your pain you had to call it something). And to be doing something is always better, whether you are avoiding being by yourself or stopping the feelings of helplessness or you simply believe. (To believe! Something I've always wanted - the peace of devotion to god is one thing I've envied since I was very young.)
Or I could be wallowing in willful ignorance and turning a blind eye to the creation of horrific humans in a very human world. If you angle the picture one way, the face of a monster, the other way, a smiling man. You can't really see the young woman with a feathered hat _and_ the old hag at the same time. It's always the wine glasses _or_ the faces.
I am easily motion sick and flickering between is making me a bit dizzy. But choosing one or another is not any easier.
Time to stop typing now. Time to think some more.
"Coop! Ya think too much!"
p.s. I'm presenting this as an out-loud thought essay - a bunch of ideas that were bumbling around in my head before they slowly fell into an uneven line with each other. I'm not soliciting criticism or debate-flamage. But if this inspires you positively or negatively to unfold your own ideas, that's cool. I just don't want to start a big haranguing hoodoo. Thanks.
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