Φυσιςφοβία – Physisphobia (English version)

Premise

The two writings below are taken from the diary, for the rest, indeed, not too interesting, of Mr. M. M. (I have not obtained the family’s consent to disclose the name) examined by me, on behalf of his descendants, by virtue of my activities as a graphologist here in the USA.

I then asked them, getting kindly permission for posting on my blog, the pages below, in consideration of my passion for macabre, or vaguely bizarre themes.

From my own research, I learned that the story of Mr. M. M. appeared in the newspapers of Jackson County, Missouri (where I live now), for a day or so, when he, inexplicably, was found lifeless in his room by his own maid, Carmela M.

The death, at age fifty-three, was due, as the autopsy states and the newspapers report, to: “natural death of sudden cardiac arrest”.

No one knows, however, the exact causes that gave rise to it, nor I do think they will ever be detected.

The subject was suffering from a severe form of “phobia” estranged, or alienating, if you prefer, that became more acute over time.

In the two passages quoted below, that I have chosen, you can clearly appreciate, even by the tone of the writing, the agonizing aggravation of his delusional state of mind.

The first piece is the one in which the subject becomes aware of his “malaise”; he, invaded by some megalomania, does not feel exactly like that, but for the first time he explicitly speaks of a “phobia”.

The second of the two passages, however, is representative of his mental state, and the final dates back to about a month before his unexplained death. Maybe it even leaves room for unpleasant assumptions about what may have caused it.

I leave it to the reader’s imagination, and I just report the passages faithfully.

One version has, of course, been translated and published in Italian.

 

Lee’s Summit MO 8/12/1995

Thinking about myself and my condition, as every wise man and learned one should do, I found myself suffering from a strange, singular phobia.

I must confess, first to myself, I feel a certain pride for both the strangeness of the circumstance and the uniqueness of my in-disposition, which can legitimately be considered “special” or even “elected”, and for my “self-investigative”, “and self-analysis” ability.

As wonderful habit that I approve, I called my phobia, not being on the list of those already known, using Greek roots: Φυσιςφοβία (Physisphobia).

That is a phobia of “Nature”, understood in the most banal, or less deep sense as the aggregation of animals and plants (as well as various wild places and ecosystems) that surround us.

I have always been suspicious of first-person exploration of places not previously conquered and reclaimed through the beautiful human colonization, places that, tout court, I would define “wild”, uncivilized. But for some time, I started to feel a deep unease even in trivial steps on a minimal piece of lawn, maybe in a parking lot, enclosed by a concrete edging, or a miserable flower bed, or even touching a tree in a garden, or a common pet.

All this has been progressive, unstoppably progressive.

I prefer, and before it was not so, to walk resting my feet on artificial materials rather than on the bare ground. Of course, I always wear boots, even in the house, and well secured.

Until recently, everything was to me, as I understand as for everyone else, superbly indifferent. Then came an awareness of the difference between walking on an artificial surface rather than a “natural” one, and it quickly turned into a faint unease, louder and louder, until it became hostility, hate, and so on.

I much prefer, and for some time now, to stay in places that have been manipulated and transformed by my animal species, preferably clean and sterile, closed, or at least thinned of life, “desertified”, and under control.

From some months, I love to sterilize the water that touches my body and with which I wash myself, a difficult and costly, but a necessary habit.

I am comfortable, maximally, between steel and metals, glass, plastic, concrete, asphalt, and so on. All that has not been transformed by human labor makes me anxious, uncomfortable, nervous, makes me uneasy and restless.

I love the factories, especially the steel mills and the glass works, even if I do not have occasion to visit them often now. I love the buildings of the downtowns of big cities, the skyscrapers.

I like wood when it is processed and treated, glazed and lacquered by robust hoods, and even better when it is converted to paper. I appreciate stone only if it is non-porous. Mud and earth, I tolerate them only if they become porcelain and ceramics. I feel a strange and morbid attraction to silk, considering its beauty, and despite its odd or repulsive origin. I love the drugs that are derived from plants, but not the plants, nor the leaves, and much less the flowers.

With a great effort, I can personally realize the processes and activities necessary to make places “habitable” according to the parameters that are given to me, which, after all, are those that distinguish civilized life.

I make the effort only for a civic sense and to have a quiet life, because I feel compelled to contribute, as I do not want to see myself as a parasite, but I would rather avoid touching and going to certain places. When I decide to give my contribution and work, I armor myself properly, of course. Also, the ability to protect ourselves is typical of the civilization and progress of the species.

I must confess an immense discomfort and a deep aversion to all the activities that require any contact with environments that are not yet well drained. For example, the most stupid of the chores: I hate mowing the grass, or picking the fruits (walnuts, peaches).

In fact, I would prefer not to have a garden at all at my house; after all, my favorite place to admire the plants is always a greenhouse, but also the counter of a supermarket is more than enough.

While I am working on my yard, however, I perceive a subtle and previously non-existent sense of enjoyment in “bending” the environment to my needs, and even in chasing other animals, appropriating a piece of the world that until then had been their dominion. Such pleasure does not exceed, unfortunately, the discomfort of being in Nature.

For animals, unaware of their condition, I have both a sense of proud superiority mixed with discomfort and pain; I feel hatred (for the threats they impose, even the less important ones), contempt for their ugliness and stupidity, but also painful empathy for the common fate of us all: to die and decay.

Obviously, I hate fishing, hunting, hiking, and even the presence of ivy on the walls of the most luxurious country mansions troubles me a lot, and ails me extremely. In this last case, what worries and upsets me is the choice of the owner! Why, I say, deface a beautiful wall with crap like that: a vernacular plant, nest of spiders, receptacle of pods, and covered by scores of filthy insects?

I remember it well, some time ago, already aware of my reasons, I categorically refused to sleep in a place like that, causing great embarrassment to my former wife in front of her dear friend. I preferred to pay for a hotel, sleep alone, and bear her usual bluster, rather than risk finding an insect in the room, and the proximity of such a disgrace clinging to an honest human work.

I cannot consider satisfactory the situation in which I live, but not so much because it is now largely incapacitating, and even less because I believe that my anxiety is unjustified or exaggerated. On the contrary, I consider it rather perfectly legitimate and justified! It is a source of pride for me!

After all, it originates from a careful and merciless observation (as any valid observation should be) of reality. Rather, the problem is I am not satisfied because of the lack, the great lack still preventing us from reaching perfect domination of the environment and a perfect civilization.

The connection with the hostile and scary natural monster and hazardous contamination and its pitfalls is still too strong! We must progress more and more!

I also find annoying the lack of consideration that my brilliant position and philosophy receives from my fellow men, who foolishly like to call themselves “nature lovers”.

Of course, thinking about all the history of the world, I shudder, and I can feel joyfully blessed to be born in this era, rather than in the past, even the recent one, as it is more civilized and distant from the horrible and cruel monster that always had devoured and bullied us. This is, after all, the least dirty and violent time in recorded history.

I love the modern products! I love the hygiene! I love mouthwashes, toothpastes, medicines, everything is spotless and sterile, soaps, spermicides, condoms, insecticides, any form of prophylaxis, capsules, liquids and disinfectants, everything else of this general category.

To relax myself, sometimes, I read the newspaper in a pharmacy; the pharmacist near the house is used to it now, and he does not fuss if I stay an hour or so in his shop.

More feeble, I want to confess all my phobias. I feel they are developing within myself an aversion even to the pure laws of physics! After all, they too can be called “Nature”.

It went on like this: I hate getting older, and therefore I avoid mirrors in order not to be forced to face the physical decline; I hate to become weaker in the passage of time, and then I stopped working out in order not to see my regression from when I was younger and stronger. I hate to fall! Yes! To fall down to the floor, to hit, and be hurt.

So I began to detest, for example, gravity and electromagnetism that prevent me from placing myself anywhere I want in space, and to cross bodies. Then I hated oxidation, and any dynamic process that lead me closer to a despicably inevitable end.

Yes! I developed an endless fear of dying! But this already has a name (thanatophobia) and is the oldest in human history, but I want to say it: I have come to it at last, in my ingenious way! It is a mere consequence of the other one, I reached it in a novel and brilliant way.

In the past, when I was a young man, dying did not scare me at all. In fact, I was looking for (I remember it, and I get tremors) a heroic death! Today a cold sweat assaults me when I think that I could really have lost my life and be no more; I have cramps, nausea, and everything gets worse because of my strong algophobia and hypochondria.

I dream, though! In my dream the future is spotlessly clean, sterile, disinfected; especially every human being will be free, he will have a barrier between himself and the rest of the world, an impenetrable and invisible “bubble” (which does not distort the senses) as an imperceptible lens, or an invisible, but absolutely unbreakable skin in which nothing external can enter, and where he can breathe the purest air.

You will see from there all the places in the world, even the most dangerous and inaccessible, as well as the most beautiful ones, and safely immersed in them, but at the same time totally separated and far away: safe from all danger and limitations.

You will not need to work hard to move any longer, you will reach the highest peaks without walking, without the need for training in the thin air, without loss of time and troubles.

Or you will submerge yourself into the deepest depths without feeling the weight of the water.

Eternal, with no changes and aging, external and rescued from horrible Nature, man will become what it is meant to be! This is what we ask from science, its most important step, which I am sure will soon be accomplished.

 

Lee’s Summit MO 12-25-2010

Perhaps some would find my present condition of “seclusion” miserable. But I consider it a blessing, instead.

Science has disappointed us, yes! We all must be very disappointed. And until this disappointment will be abated by effective remedies, I am not going to change anything in my life.

Now it has been ten years since I have left my room! But I am happy!

Except for a brief interruption six years ago for my sister’s wedding, for which she insistently demanded my presence, I have never moved.

It was a nightmare day! The wedding was celebrated in a park, outdoors, I remained closed in the restaurant for as long as necessary not to draw too much attention to myself and be blamed, and I felt all that time as interminable. Then I asked for a ride home. I did not touch the food, I felt nauseous and my head was spinning.

Today, I could not stand to be drawn to the outside world! And there is no cause, or moral blackmail, or female relative pretention that could move me! Unless science had already found a way to shelter me entirely from the environment, and my dream has already come true. But I know that it is not so!

Perhaps I miss the sunlight, but I’m not willing to risk exposing myself to its evil oxidation rays, or the contact with any of the beasts that populate the air, or the pollen, the hairs, the mites, or anything that is not sterile and clean.

Sometimes I cannot get to sleep, imagining a flaw in my blinds and sealed windows, the infiltration, for whatever reason, a distraction, a negligence made by others (I am not mistaken ever!) of some beast in my life, in my own serene and civil world.

It would be the end for me! I would have to clean and sterilize all my possessions all over again.  I could not do it alone this time, and the help of Carmela would be useless. She is incompetent! She does not understand the seriousness of the work that would have to be done, and she always takes everything so lightly, as the shallow and uneducated simpleton that she is.

I have to fire her! If there is a source of danger, it is her! The stupid maid of a house of fools, idiots!

Sometimes, I wonder what I will do … and why there is not a place for me in the world yet. The only plausible answer is that I am a precursor, a forerunner of the times, a genius, no, much more: a demigod.

 

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