The terror of the doppelganger is not that of a shadowy being replacing you and dragging you into the closet with a cloth stuffed in your mouth – it is the realization that the self itself is a doppelganger. That behind the thin scrim of consciousness there is a long dark hallway with a number of rooms, all filled with doppelgangers waiting their turn, and each waking from sleep finds a new replacement, a born again body snatcher yawning into the amniotic sunlight of another impersonation.
Whitman’s song of the self becomes a song to a dead star. It is not a singing really, either, but more of an incantation, structureless, tedious. The flat sound of being dragged into the closet.
Fernando Pessoa’s rejection of “Cogito, ergo sum” led to his horrified thought, “They think, therefore they are.” They being the “many species of people” living inside us, our theater troupe of emotions and temperaments – they are parasitic, they inhabit, possess us; we, the hosts, do not exist, the “I” does not exist but is just an embodied moment continually wrested from control, inhabited by Whitman’s multitudes. The self is then a mirror, with different, unknowable, and alien faces stepping out of the shadows to fill its frame.
* * *
“Capital is a phantasmal body, a monstrous Doppelganger which stalks abroad while its master sleeps, mechanically consuming the pleasures he austerely forgoes. The more the capitalist foreswears his self-delight, devoting his labours instead to the fashioning of his zombie-like alter ego, the more second-hand fulfillments he is able to reap. Both capitalist and capital are images of the living dead, the one inanimate yet anesthetized, the other inanimate yet active.” – Terry Eagleton, The Ideology of the Aesthetic.
* * *
It had been months since I checked on the sink; I had forgotten to uncork the drain stopper when I left over a month ago for Belgium.
I looked in the sink and stood transfixed for long moments, looking in at what was inside. A lush green algae had grown on the surface of the water in thick knots, covered in lily pads and reeds. Tiny shapes flitted about under the film of the water, bulbous little things wriggling like dark sperm looking for an egg.
I looked closer and saw that they were tadpoles.
Dirt had been packed on the porcelain of the bottom and the tendrils of the reeds and plants were stuck there. A swimming insect grabbed a tadpole while I stared, and buried its face into its guts, draining out the fluids while the tadpoles nearby slowly grew legs, unaware.
I stuck my hand into the sink to feel the water, and was surprised by how cold it was.
* * *
“Horror is beyond the reach of psychology.” – Theodor Adorno.