The Imp of the Perverse

He’s the little voice which pleads with you throw yourself off a tall building or take ‘passenger action’ on the undergrind. In the Baroque Cycle, Neal Stephenson infects Half-cocked Jack Shaftoe with it, though unlike most of us, he acts on his Impish whims. So far it’s been the rare occasion where i’ve climbed on my desk and shouted ‘FUCK SHIT FUCK, YOU BASTARDS ARE STEALING MY SOUL!’, while indulging such impulses it is very cathartic, the trouble is it tends to raise the bar and next time you’ll need to involve turpentine and fire brigades.

But while Stephenson builds a whole 2000 page trilogy round the tendendcy fulfilled, the phrase actually originates with that other prolix polymath Jonathon Swift!

We stand upon the brink of a precipice. We peer into the abyss ñ we grow sick and dizzy. Our first impulse is to shrink from the danger. Unaccountably we remain. By slow degrees our sickness, and dizziness, and horror, become merged in a cloud of unnameable feeling. By gradations, still more imperceptible, this cloud assumes shape, as did the vapor from the bottle out of which arose the genius in the Arabian Nights. But out of this our cloud upon the precipice’s edge, there grows into palpability, a shape, far more terrible than any genius, or any demon of a tale, and yet it is but a thought, although a fearful one, and one which chills the very marrow of our bones with the fierceness of the delight of its horror. It is merely the idea of what would be our sensations during the sweeping precipitancy of a fall from such a height. And this fall ñ this rushing annihilation ñ for the very reason that it involves that one most ghastly and loathsome of all the most ghastly and loathsome images of death and suffering which have ever presented themselves to our imagination ñ for this very cause do we now the most vividly desire it. And because our reason violently deters us from the brink, therefore, do we the more impetuously approach it. There is no passion in nature so demoniacally impatient, as that of him, who shuddering upon the edge of a precipice, thus meditates a plunge. To indulge for a moment, in any attempt at thought, is to be inevitably lost; for reflection but urges us to forbear, and therefore it is, I say, that we cannot. If there be no friendly arm to check us, or if we fail in a sudden effort to prostrate ourselves backward from the abyss, we plunge, and are destroyed.

(Thanks to FridgeMagnet)

And I can’t help it but it kinda reminds me of compulsive repugnant thought syndrome

About caspar

Caspar is just one monkey among billions. Battering his keyboard without expectations even of peanuts, let alone of aping the Immortal Bard. By day he is an infantologist at Birkbeck Babylab, by night he runs
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One Response to The Imp of the Perverse

  1. fridgemagnet says:

    Ooh, I only found this by accident. Why is your RSS feed not on my list? This must be rectified.

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