Atavism in IJ


In re-reading parts of IJ, I found a parallel between Hal and Orin’s phone conversation on November 5 Y.D.A.U. (p242-258) and the November 6 description of addictions within the E.T.A. Hal tells Orin that he has found the magic in shooting toe-nail clippings, “It’s like the celluloid moment when Luke removes his high-tech targeting helmet” (p258). This confuses even Orin and he begins to wonder if this has ‘fucked Hal up’ somehow, talking about Himself. But the reference is not unimportant, it suggests that somehow in a divine sense that [real] direction is lost within God’s plans and that evolution is a sort of ‘high-tech’ plan that itself has flaws.   Atavism is again mentioned in “Hal’s devolution from occasional tourist to subterranean compulsive, substance-wise” (p270).

I think that this notion of atavism is crucial in understanding IJ, especially with regard to addiction. The idea that human beings can become dependent on substances which are not beneficial, and more often then not detrimental to themselves, is an anti-evolutionary idea. It suggests that human’s could be trying to avoid the rules of whatever ‘game’ that   they play, or not even have understood the rules of the game in the first place . This corresponds with the idea that AA itself gives into an idea that parallels addiction itself.

I think DFW is asking how to move forward, when nature itself often moves backwards (fish with teeth, whales with legs, no I’m not making this shit up). Why can’t the addiction be accepted as natural? Why do we constantly reject people who have natural problems? Why isn’t everyone in AA? If everyone succumbs to addiction, why are we constantly avoiding it? I think that this relates to White Flag’s belief that 99.9% of reality is outside of our control (p1004 fn. 100). It all comes back to the .1% that we are. The 0.1% can either work for us or against us, and in the case of addiction it is working against us, at least that’s what I think.

Comments are closed.