S&F Bacon and Nietzsche’s Abyss

S&F Bacon Nietzsche smallThis cartoon came out of a visit to the Francis Bacon and Thomas Moore exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario.  I’m not a fan of Bacon’s work due to how grotesquely he interprets humanity, which makes for disturbingly visceral viewing experience.

Anyhow, the visit gave rise to subsequent debates about what one chooses to experience in life, in that the lover of knowledge cannot remain merely an observer.  So… is it always best to seek out all knowledge, regardless of what that knowledge is?  Or, is it sometimes best to deliberately look away from the awful when one has the choice?

I don’t have the answer of course, but do think Nietszche’s abyss quote touches on the  spiritual echo that can result from our choices. For a lighter take on this concept, feel free to check out a prior illustrated story, Ernie & The Nietzsche Monster.

I am a painter of the 20th century: during my childhood I lived through the revolutionary Irish movement, Sinn Fein, and the wars, Hiroshima, Hitler, the death camps, and daily violence that I’ve experienced all my life. And after all that they want me to paint bunches of pink flowers … But that’s not my thing. The only things that interest me are people, their folly, their ways, their anguish, this unbelievable, purely accidental intelligence which has shattered the planet, and which maybe, one day, will destroy it.”  – Francis Bacon, 2003

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Ernie & The Nietzsche Monster

There once was a rotund chap named Ernie.

Ernie was a happy sort.  He liked to wander through his domain…

Laughing and chatting with his friends along the way..

Yep, Ernie was a happy chap.

One day though, Ernie noticed something strange..

Ernie did not know it, but he had stumbled across a monster!

Now Ernie – in addition to being a happy chap – was also a bit naive..So Ernie decided to be friends, and associate himself with the monster.Ernie took the monster under his wing (or paw), frequenting all his favourite haunts..Over time though, Ernie started to notice something peculiar..Ernie wasn’t sure.. but it seemed like his friends were disappearing!Little did Ernie know that – when he wasn’t looking – the monster had cut a swathe of destruction through his kingdom!

Ernie started to grow suspicious of the monster…With that the monster started crying, which made Ernie feel bad.And this is when Ernie made a big mistake.With that pronouncement, Ernie thought of a plan.  He would somehow help make the monster become less – well – less ‘monster-ish’.He took the monster jogging….…to the library……and even out for sushi…But monster remained a monster.Over time, Ernie’s spirit grew tired of battling the monster’s nature……became despondent…… and eventually, weak.Several years passed, and Ernie forgot who he was – and the difference between him and the monster.Ernie had thought he could change the monster, but the monster – true to its nature – had changed him.After a long time of monster-like living, Ernie had a strange dream.He dreamt he was walking through his domain…When all of a sudden he fell into an abyss!The abyss seemed to go on forever..His fall abruptly ended when Ernie emerged from a huge hole..…which turned out to be the eye of a gigantic being!

Ernie stared, transfixed, at the apparition.All at once, it spoke!And with that, Ernie woke in a fright!Ernie thought carefully.  He thought back to his kingdom…the appearance of the monster.. the disappearance of his friends… and the gradual darkening of his life…

And Ernie then realized:And with that realization, his monster-shell fell away and Ernie regained his true spirit.With his renewal, Ernie decided to deal with the monster for once and all.And the monster left.Slowly, peace and joy returned to the kingdom.Things were almost as before.But sometimes, a cloud would pass over the sun and Ernie would remember his strange dream….Years later, when Ernie would notice someone befriending a monster, he would shake his head and enigmatically pronounce:“He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”  – Friedrich Nietzsche

For more Ernie stories click here!