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The need to experiment and experience is a quality most mammals posses. Out of curiosity, one may easily set aside their life to explore beyond what they know as the norm. Let it be a new class, fresh relationship, or a trip far from home; some humans will engage in activities that might be challenging, not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well; activities that may change their outlook on life completely. In Joseph Conrad's novel, Heart of Darkness, one will soon discover that the powers of curiosity and ideas becoming a reality can leave an individual trapped in disappointment, fear, and darkness. There is always the temptation of something never experienced, "smiling, frowning, inviting, grand, mean, with an air of whispering. 'Come and find out.'" That whisper becomes a voice, urging, nagging in the mind of the interested one. Until the vision is accepted one will ask themselves questions, such as, 'What would I learn? Who would I meet? 'What if I don't try?' Finally giving in, "the voice... now and then is a positive pleasure, like the speech of a brother." (Conrad 40) This voice that was once a forceful whisper is now comforting, embracing, understanding, has reason, and meaning. To Marlow, the main character in Conrad's novel, this whisper that becomes a loud booming voice in his head, is the opportunity to discover the unknown realms of Africa. The driving force behind the decision is the "idea at the back of it, not a sentimental pretense, but an idea, an unselfish belief in the idea- something you can set up, and bow down before, and after- sacrifice to." (32) Now the idea of what the experience might hold, will put him/herself into it entirely; knowing they must love even the bad aspects, and realizing they may relinquish themselves to whatever changes may occur. In Marlow's case, he now has a boat and crew, is anxious to leave the shore of reality to sail down the river of mystery. Here the journey begins, head on out, or should we say "in....." Stepping onto unfamiliar grounds, may seam odd. "Veiled not by a sense of mystery, but by a slightly disdainful ignorance." (30) With each step something is learned, new surroundings noticed. Let it be the crashing of the waves against a large traveling vessel, or the happiness of being appreciated; a feeling rushes in of excitement and suppressed fear. It is the sudden realization of how deep the trek is going to be. "The best way I [Marlow] can explain it to you is by saying that, for a second or two, I felt as though instead of going into the center of a continent, I were about to set off for the center of the Earth." (39) Quickly the trip takes hold, and forces one to examine where they are. There are some who just can't handle the intense pressure, or are unaccustomed to the environment. They may see that turning back would be harder than the getting there; escaping either mentally or physically may be their only way out. "The other day, I took up a man who hanged himself on the road... The sun too much for him, or the country perhaps" (42)
There, in the almost overwhelming adventure, something is within; beyond reach, shining like a beam of sunlight though a deep dark forest. This becomes the vision. The goal. At is so steadily happens, curious character Marlow hears of a man, Mr. Kurtz, deep in the jungle and wishes more than anything to meet him. Whatever else was noticed before the discovery of the internal prize, is put aside. Competition, obstacles, intimidation, and the unknown, are all barriers that block the sought-after path. Others who feel the warmth strive to be near it. On the outskirts, the misty darkness holds creatures, man and beast, who have tried to follow the same road, but have failed. Looking ahead, but in front as well, the solemn "black shapes crouched, lay, sat between the trees, leaning against the trunks, clinging to the earth, half coming out, half effaced within the dim light, in all the attitudes of pain, abandonment." (44) On his journey deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness, Marlow stumbles upon people who have also tried to reach Mr. Kurtz. They seam to be hollow, void of all feelings and hope. The qualities of these empty people force Marlow to proceed with an unstoppable drive, believing if he keeps going he will not become like them. If you were to look through natures eyes, these shapes, or hollow men on Marlow's path, could be seen as innocent bugs who were so 'wrapped' up in their ideas and visions, they failed to see the spider come to steal their gift of life. Being submerged in what lies beyond is at times heartless. Those who see others in pain may continue on their way. "The inner truth is hidden- luckilyluckily. But I felt it all the same, I felt often its mysterious stillness watching over me at my monkey tricks, just as it watches you fellows performing on your respective tightropes." (67) The changes in ones self slowly occur as the thin threads of an invisible web become thicker. The past is mostly forgotten, and the future is enlarged. However, there are "moments when ones past comes back to one, as it will sometimes when you have not a moment to spare to yourself, but it comes in the shape of an unrestful dream, remembered with wonder amongst the overwhelming realities of this strange world..." (66) At this point an animal may stop to smell the air, and check its surroundings, then continue its hunt. Where man, even Marlow, might stop for a moment to reflect on how the ideas in the beginning matched up, or differentiated from where he stands now. "The mind of man is capable of anything, because everything is in it, all the past as well as the future." (69) Close to the center of the maze there are certain elements that can hold the anxious by a toenail. Whether it be the silence that brings the feeling of deafness, or the night that brings blindness, nature loves to get in the way. The front door of imagination becoming reality, the cocoon of the long awaited metamorphosis are wrapped tightly, like a dense muggy fog. Hiding the evil that may be watching, the whiteness conceals. In this cocoon of wonder the spider of denial, fear, competition, anger, and hunger lashes out. At this point when the effects of hate and confusion spiral out of control. The understanding must be that the sudden pain needs to run its course, whether it be a fight in a long relationship, or bad grades on a test. At this point, Marlow is very close to Mr. Kurtz. Those who know the all powerful man fear Marlow is there to kill their master, thus begin to shoot at his ship, killing the driver. Man's mind plays evil tricks when the key is close at hand. Questions doubting the existence of there even being a gift or light. "There was a sense of extreme disappointment, as though I had found out I had been striving after something all together without a substance." (83) Is Mr. Kurts dead? Has Marlow been traveling close to death for nothing? After wanting something for so long,
even thinking about not getting it is painful. Once the obstacles of nature, enemy, and self are defeated the time to face the reality of the truth has come. Imagine stepping onto solid ground after months on an unstable ship. Just the feeling of firm earth beneath tired feet would be uncomfortable. Actually setting foot in the place where for months and years has been dreamed about makes it seam unreal. "No relation of a dream can convey the dream-sensation that commingling of absurdity, surprise, and bewilderment in a tremor of struggling revolt, that notion of being captured by the incredible which is the very essence of dreams." (57) After the long, arduous journey to get there, looking around, most of the time it is not all that was imagined, hoped for. But, because of trying so very hard, and expecting so much, the positive aspects need to be focused on, or the negative will run the show, and that is all that will be seen and felt. Not even knowing it while in this moment of bliss and discovery the spider lurks and is secretly eating bits of time gone by and times to come. Slowly, while playing, relaxing, or exploring the place of gifts is taking more than it is giving. The strings of the web are tight now. As much as one was changed during the voyage, the events that occur within bring upon the changes of a lifetime. "I think it had whispered to him about himself which he did not know, things of which he had no conception till he took counsel with this great solitude- and whisper had proved irresistible fascinating. It echoed loud within him because he was hollow at the core..." (97) On return home, out of the darkness and mixed up light, being thrown back into fast paced reality is truly tough. "I found myself back... resenting the sight of people hurrying through the streets to filch a little money from each other, to devour unwholesome beer, to dream their insignificant and silly dreams. They trespassed upon my thoughts." (113) The knowledge one holds after such a mind opening experience, can leave the feeling of advanced power and sadness that those around do not/ can not see the dangers that lurk within and outside themselves. However as a warning, it is necessary to share the most important pieces of the experience with those who need to hear it before they venture on their own. The webs of temptation in our lives are all around us, invisible to the eye and mind until they have completely wrapped themselves between the importance of staying who we are. Habits or intense ideas become the spiders, and have the innocent urge to take control. We all can learn form Marlow's journey to discover the unknown. Perhaps each one of us needs to leave the comfort of home and our own realities, to venture into a place that makes us challenge our minds, bodies, and souls. We must remember who we were when we began the journey, and never forget what we learned while submerged in the unknown. Good luck out there. Life is vicious.
First I would like to say a personal thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. My interests vary from character sketches, slivers of insight into my life, to stories about animals and nature, and more. If you have an interesting idea for a story, but can't seem to get your ideas to fit into form, please contact me and
we can work on your story together. I love to brainstorm, and to talk-story with people who also appreciate the craft of writing. Feel free to learn more about me: http://www.myspace.com/teefrog
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Quickly the trip takes hold, and forces one to examine where they are. There are some who just can't handle the intense pressure, or are una...