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Silent Snow, Secret Snow by Conrad Aiken - a short story discussion
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Author:  Robert Tulip [ Fri Jun 02, 2017 6:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Silent Snow, Secret Snow by Conrad Aiken - a discussion

Taylor wrote:
The snow is opaque...its a veil...a mystery. …the mental thing is very subtle and I agree that a great many are unwitting.

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.

Author:  DWill [ Sat Jun 03, 2017 6:42 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Silent Snow, Secret Snow by Conrad Aiken - a discussion

Now you've gone overboard, Robert. The analysis fails on the simple factual point that Paul alone, not the rest of the world, is having this fantastical delusion of snow covering the world.

Author:  Robert Tulip [ Sat Jun 03, 2017 7:19 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Silent Snow, Secret Snow by Conrad Aiken - a discussion

DWill wrote:
Paul alone, not the rest of the world, is having this fantastical delusion of snow covering the world.
An individual pathology can provide insight into how a comparable pathology can affect a group. In this case, the sickness is psychological fantasy, presented in a simple imaginative individual model.

Modelling how fantasy can harm a group is a worthy psychological goal, and can start by looking at how fantasy can hypothetically affect an individual. Models are intrinsically simplified descriptions of the actual operation of processes on larger scale in the real world. In the case of Silent Snow, Secret Snow, Paul's stubborn refusal to abandon the security blanket provided by his snow fantasy is an excellent model for broader social processes that exhibit comparable fantastic pathologies.

As Paul Simon put it in his well known song The Boxer, 'a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.' This describes a universal problem in social psychology, well illustrated in this story as a parable of the effects of mental delusion for individual and society.Image

Author:  DWill [ Mon Jun 05, 2017 7:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Silent Snow, Secret Snow by Conrad Aiken - a discussion

It's clever, Robert, but I'm not buying it as being interpretatively valid for this story.

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