Re: Silent Snow, Secret Snow by Conrad Aiken - a discussion
I keep liking this story more and more the more I think about it. It reads to me as a parable for the operation of delusion in religion and politics, in the pervasive ability to exclude unwelcome perceptions. So your description of the snow as a subtle opaque mystery veil helps to see how similar psychological problems operate more broadly.
For an example from current politics, the false belief that the Paris Climate Accord is needed to keep warming below two degrees is like a comforting imaginary blanket of snow upon the social discussion of climate change, a delusional mass fantasy that conveniently removes all need for its sufferers to engage with evidence and logic and reality and facts. Equally, the views of climate denialists that climate change is not due to human emissions, or that massive sudden warming is okay, are similar comforting mass delusions.
In the Paris case, science shows that all commitments will deliver warming of four degrees, barely different from business as usual, and causing massive economic dislocation. The collective hope for a two degree result leads people to claim so many people can’t be wrong and Paris was a great triumph. People then convert a fervent hope into a firm belief, rather like religious faith in Jesus Christ.
Where everyone thinks that the silent secret snow job is a good thing to avoid the trauma of cognitive dissonance, it is very like the emperor’s new clothes in the famous story by Hans Christian Andersen
. Any critics are just hounded away using ad hominem fallacious reasoning, to avoid confronting the basic assumption that makes life possible, if only temporarily. It occurs to me with the Emperor’s New Clothes, it would be great to write a sequel in which Macchiavellian plotters use the obvious fact that the king is a loony Lear to depose him.
In the case of climate, the decisive false assumptions are that humans can continue to exist on our planet without major economic change, and that emission reduction could stabilise the climate. With Paul’s secret snow fantasy, he assumes it is possible to sink deeper into the comfort of his personal mental blizzard. Such fantasies are not sustainable. Paul’s blocking reaction to his parents in Silent Snow is a great model for how people suffering from a collective schizoid dislocation find their fantasy preferable to reality.