I sympathize with those who ask why an account dedicated to strange vintage holiday stuff seems to become a home for retro images of amphibians starting around April each year.
I sympathize, but you have to understand that your question actually answers itself. Or, no, it doesn’t answer itself, but it contains its answer within itself. No, that’s not quite it, either.
Or, let me try to clarify. The question of why I post frogs is an important one, and we should take a moment to think about what happens when we ask such a question, or, indeed, any question. Martin Heidegger can help with this:
Questioning builds a way. We would be advised, therefore, above all to pay heed to the way, and not to fix our attention on isolated sentences and topics. The way is one of thinking.Martin Heidegger (“The Question Concerning Technology” in Basic Writings, Ed. David Farrell Krell, HarperSanFrancisco: 1993 [orig. 1954], p. 311)
Your questioning is not really about frogs. To focus on the frogs is to “fix [your] attention on isolated sentences and topics,” namely those frogs. But it’s not really the frogs you’re asking about, is it? I could post lots of retro images of garters, and you’d still have a similar question, right?
My point is that when you ask me why I post pictures of frogs, the frogs are merely the occasion for your asking why I do something weird. What you’re really asking is why I post that which seems somehow off topic, uncanny, or, to use a good German and Heideggerian word: Unheimlich.
Unheimlich is often translated as “uncanny,” but it literally means un-home-like. In German, the suggestion is that things that are not like home are actually somehow unsettling and possibly even disturbing. That’s why “uncanny” is usually a better translation. But if we think about the actual German word, it starts to seem like a bit of a, well, uncanny way to say uncanny. There are lots of things that aren’t like my home that aren’t “uncanny.” My neighbor’s house is different, but it’s not unsettling to me. My grandmother’s house is different from my home, but it’s even the opposite of unsettling and uncanny. But what I think Unheimlich really suggests is that the “uncanny” designates something in which or with which I could not comfortably live, dwell, or endure. It may be interesting, it may even be fascinating, but I couldn’t endure it for very long.
What your question about my frogs seems to say to me, then, is that you cannot really endure my frogs for very long, at least not comfortably. Unless you’re a herpetologist, however, that’s not particularly unusual. Even those with pet frogs don’t want to tarry alongside frogs for a long time. And we haven’t even mentioned yet the anthropomorphized frogs, the ones wearing clothes, the ones sword fighting, playing instruments, selling beard lotion, etc.
To ask about my frogs, then, is really you pointing out the questionable nature of your feelings. You question me, but it is actually your own feeling of uncanniness, of being unable to dwell long in my company, that is questioning and questionable. This is not a bad thing. Rather, the worst thing would be not to be able to find anything questionable at all, not least yourself. Heidegger, again, points out how this is a very widespread modern problem:
We are used to calling the era of ‘civilization’ the one that has dispelled all bewitchery, and this dispelling seems more probably — indeed uniquely — connected to complete unquestionableness. Yes it is just the reverse.Heidegger (_Contributions to Philosophy (of the Event)_, trans. Daniela Vallega-Neu and Richard Rojcewicz, Indiana UP: 2012 [orig. 1936-8), “59.Bewitchery and the era of complete unquestionableness”, p. 98)
We think that civilization occurs when all things are answered and all questionableness and uncanniness has been eradicated. That seems to be the nature of science, of rationality, indeed of overall good sense. But if that were true, what about civilization would be shining and worth striving for? If all things were unquestionable and clear, would civilization have a point? What would its worth be if it eliminated all strangeness, got rid of everything uncanny and questionable? Would anyone want to live in such a civilization?
I think not.
So your questionable questioning of my frogs is in many ways both a foundational moment of giving meaning to civilization while at the same time the fruit of questionableness itself continuing to become questionable. By questioning my frogs, you are engaging in the re-be-witching, in the best sense, of the world. You are taking what seems uncanny and questionable and making it resonate as questionable in its becoming and remaining questionable.
The frogs are not weird. It is your questioning the weirdness of the frogs that produces both the weirdness and their questionableness in a kind of self-grounding moment in which the uncanny provides its own effects to its source. The question concerning my frogs is the question that keeps me weird.
I am Weird Christmas because you question my frogs. And I thank you.
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