Appropriately enough, we have arrived back in Lancaster the same day the ComicCon has taken over the downtown Marriot. The name, ComicCon (or is it ComiCon?) doesn’t do it justice, except insofar as the abbreviated form of convention is con.
Prior to the spread of such conventions, con was an abbreviated form of confidence in the negative sense of the word derived from the label confidence man… the sort of man who leads you to believe in something unreal for his own benefit. In this light, ComicCons make sinister sense.
In fact, this reinterpretation of the term provides a nice example of the meaning of sinister. To grasp this meaning it helps to get beyond the stigmatization of the left hand as evil, and to simply recognize that it’s an inversion of the right. If the right-handed purpose of any thing is for a common good, the sinister purpose is the inversion of that.
When Marine Corp general Smedley Butler retired and wrote his book War is a Racket, he was describing the sinister purpose of war, the inversion of the supposed right-handed purpose of furthering the common good. The con of the confidence man is also the con of conspiracy.
So, the ComicCon provides opportunities for people to fully manifest preferred identities that are the copyrighted properties of assorted corporations.
I am reminded of a few things:
First, and in no particular order, is the story about how Indra and Virocana went to see the great sage Purusha, to learn the secret of the Atman, the Self. After putting them through 32 years of mundane discipleship, he has them dress in the finest clothes, and to adorn themselves with jewelry. Thus bedecked, he instructs them to behold their own reflections in a large bowl of water. That reflection that you see, he tells them, is the Atman.
The cosplay selfie has a long and venerable history.
Second, and in no particular order, I am reminded of Mirceau Eliade’s distinction between cultures living in cosmos and cultures living in history. Cosmic cultures are characterized by recurrence; historical cultures by linear novelty.
To live in a cosmic culture is to repeat the acts and gestures of the culture heroes, whose acts create the world.
Point being, these comic figures are those cosmogonic, cosmos-creating, deities… Except the cosmoses they create are completely make-believe.
Inevitably, someone will ask at this point (let’s pretend for a moment that someone cares enough to not only read, but to be annoyed) what it is that makes make-believe worlds inferior to the supposedly real one. Or to put it in something closer to post-modern terms: aren’t all social games equally gamey?
ANYWAY … I’m walking through the crowds of cosplayers inside the downtown Lancaster Marriot in my own costume, jeans and t-shirt and sunglasses, with a guitar bag slung over my shoulder. Outside, men from the local fire company are in their own costumes, presenting painted fireman boots to passersby in search of money for Muscular Dystrophy and maybe local people hooked on heroin.
The figures of the central Civil War memorial impassively watch it all, frozen in the costumes of their own drama, beneath the statue of a figure meant to represent Union – a woman bearing a shield, in something like a toga.