The man with the world's longest fingernails is gross. You can sense the horrible, dead weight of his nails. You can imagine the musty smell of them. What a disgusting thing to inflict on yourself.
Those nails are not repellant simply because they are an extreme, they are terrible for what they reveal in ourselves. We can do what he is doing. We can grow our fingernails or our hair to extremes. Left entirely alone, it is what our body desires, but we constantly wage war to conceal our body's horror.
We have a concept of identity that resides in our physical form. Our mind, the essence of who we are, is rooted in the biological and the electrical connections made by our memories slowly building and being erased. But our perception is from within the dynamic processes of our flesh. We think of ourselves as a stone, slowly carved by the flowing water of time, when we are as formless as the river that carved the stone.
Our bodies are shaped by stimuli and the natural rhythms of regeneration in a constant state of decay and renewal. The skin we wear will last only a few months, our livers not even that long, cells inside our body die and are replenished in hours and even our bones, the stones within us, die and renew over the years, ever less efficiently, until they are frail.
The rapidity with which our body becomes something new can be disconcerting. A lesser form of this body horror has been experienced by almost everyone. Holiday overindulgence can produce unwanted results in our body. These results require hard work - stimuli - to repair.
More lasting horrors await. Cancer can invade our cells and cause them to reproduce, our body's own processes subverted catastrophically, our flesh always vulnerable to bulging tumors and carcinomas. Even the healthiest and most fortunate among us, who lives long and does not succumb to malignancy, will experience numerous growths and tumors, each a small horror discovered in the shower, in bed or by the hands of a lover.
If we were to view a representation of ourselves over the course of a lifetime it would be as a nightmare shape of flesh and blood and diseases. We are a noodle mass of brains atop a jigsaw of overgrown bones riding the five-thousand-pound island of our flesh through a sea of our blood. Several epochal strains of bacteria weigh as much as we have at any one point in our lives, clinging to the spilling ropes of our intestines.
The tide of our flesh is guided by our genes, shaped by our decisions and actions, Deleuze's body without organs, governed by patterns and behavior. Our identity is that of an electrical storm within this process, even more temporary than the momentary creature you see in the mirror. We are gathering within our skull and along our neural pathways, momentary flashes of memories and emotions, and then we are gone, blown off to some other place by our fate, as our body decays without the counteracting force of renewal.
The man with the longest fingernails holds his hand gingerly. His nails are a single exhibit museum of his body. They are an agony to him. If they break he might die from infection.
He endures all this to get his name and photograph in a book. To be known and appreciated. We all strive to carve our initials on this world, desperately at times, longing for something more. Biology dooms us, but we hope to be remembered however fleetingly by part of the species, to create another person destined for better things, a great work, or to live on through our deeds.
We are small, unlucky animals that can conceive of their own eventual demise. We pathetically want to outlast the river and the storm.
So I spent two years writing a novel entitled LIMINAL STATES. Please check it out, I humbly think you will enjoy it.
I'm haunted by a recurring vision of a skeleton flipping me off. To avoid seeing this terrifying image in bumper sticker form, I pay someone with a blank bumper to drive in front of me at all times.
Cons: causes bad nightmares. I used to have to eat beef until I passed out to have these kind of terrors, but this machine does it for me every time I fall asleep inside it.
The Something Awful front page news tackles anything both off and on the Internet. Mostly "on" though, as we're all incredible nerds.