Slipknot Meets Camus
By Ashley Whitaker
In an interview concerning the motivation for creating .5: The Gray Chapter, singer Corey Taylor states:
… [Slipknot] present reality the way it is, but we also try to put that positivity in … we are trying to free people’s mind and say, Look, this reality is only real if you want it to be. You can change anything you want. There’s always going to be darkness in the world, but if you fight that darkness with light, maybe we can find some place that’s better for all of us. (Linea Rock 2015)
For the philosophically inclined, Taylor’s words may recall the existentialist Albert Camus and his retelling of the myth of Sisyphus. Sisyphus is condemned for eternity to roll a large stone up a steep mountain. Nearing the summit, the stone rolls back to the foot of the mountain. Realizing he will never be successful transporting the stone to the mountain’s plateau, our hero grasps that no one else can bear his unique burden. Nonetheless Camus instructs us to imagine Sisyphus happy. Life is meaningful insofar as we ascribe meaning to it.
For Camus, life is often absurd, but we can react to it in terms of revolt (not backing down or bargaining in the face of life’s personal, professional, social, or spiritual setbacks), passion (pursuit of eclectic experiences and diverse encounters with other beings), and freedom (living in a fashion one desires regardless of retaliation of outside forces). Slipknot reacts likewise to life’s absurdity with scathing music and piercing lyrics expressing despair and angst that resonate with their legions of fans (affectionately called “maggots”).
The existentialist confrontation with angst and absurdity is heard loud and clear in a verse from the song “AOV” on The Gray Chapter:
We carry what we can’t control / Approaching original violence / In the silence there’s a nihilist / Who doesn’t care and never did / To each his own / I can do with one less watered down excuse / There comes a time where we can’t take the same abuse / If this is over you can tell me it’s no use
The song’s narrator so earnestly desires security in an unstable world that it strangles them. This stranglehold is humanity’s original violence, not physical altercation or war. Yet our collective silence on this truth divides us and makes us apathetic. Excuses cannot undo a panicked yearning to pin down existence into a single theorem or subjective comfort. Once we realize this, we too concede that a nihilistic attitude of meaninglessness is not conducive to a life well lived. Nor does nihilism deepen philosophical contemplation.
Like Sisyphus, we each bear the burden of carrying our own stone. Life is indeed absurd, but Camus and Slipknot teach us that ignoring the unknown and complacently accepting fate is not the existentialist’s way. Instead, the existentialist takes the cards he or she is dealt, and through creativity alchemizes anxiety and despair into a unique existence that cannot be replicated and must be acknowledged and owned whole-heartedly. The way out is through.
Ashley Whitaker is currently a Ph.D. Candidate at Saybrook University in Existential, Humanistic and Transpersonal Psychology.
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