Becoming Trinity

In the newspaper it says ‘Three charged with Kercher killing’. The headline refers, of course, to the three suspects whose odd accounts of their activities at the time of British student Meredith Kercher’s death will shortly be assessed by an Italian judge, who may require them to stand trial. For legal reasons, I expect, the ‘Three’ cannot be referred to as the ‘Kercher Three’ as such an explicit linking would be considered prejudicial to their case. Without this formulation, however, the headline is quite obscure, given that the case has been out of the papers for several months. One might ask, on reading it, “Three who?” Three people, probably. Just any old people? Ones that we haven’t yet heard of? Obviously not – the word ‘Kercher’ reminds us – those of us that remember the name – that the case was, before last Christmas, quite notorious.
The headline is unsatisfactory. It would have been better had it been composed thus: ‘”Three” charged with Kercher killing’. This would serve to suggest that the Three are not just any three but a special three. It could, however, create confusion, insofar as it might cast doubt on the exact numbers of suspects involved. As if a policeman had said “We think three were involved but it might have been four.” The policeman’s lack of certainty would then have been mocked by the use of the quotation marks. This possibility muddies the field.
celine.jpgThe point is, the Three have acquired distinctiveness, unlike the three that haven’t (the ones we haven’t heard about yet). This Three are on the point of acquiring an aura but they haven’t got it yet. If they are found guilty they will certainly get it. If acquitted they may also get it, but for a shorter time. The aura isn’t the one that saints have, wherein a dinner plate worn behind the head signifies estimable goodness. It’s ‘aura’ in a neutral sense – a specialness that, one imagines, might crackle or hum about them were we to meet them.
The headline itself hums, in another way. It is compellingly marked by the absence of any indicators of the specialness of its subjects. But it does have the word ‘killing’ in it, and this focuses the attention.bomb.jpg This attention is not repaid, it simple enables one to note that something is missing. It’s the aura that is missing, but that’s appropriate because the Three have yet to acquire the aura. So we are witnessing the period before something that may be about to take off takes off. The period is both empty and pregnant.
The headline is part of a mythopoeic process – it constitutes a stage in the making of myth. It doesn’t refer to the mythic qualities of the three accused, it presents a point on the path towards a canonisation that is possibly imminent.
You could say that any killing already follows mythic shapes, but this is contemporary mythmaking, the sort that gives rise to the auras of Sir Alan Sugar, Steven Hawking and Celine Dion. These specialnesses are confusable with charisma, though, and must therefore be regarded as aspects of mythmaking lite.
cern.jpgA few weeks ago in Geneva CERN announced the imminent switch-on of its latest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider, which may lead to the confirmation of the existence of the Higgs Boson, the hypothetical particle that endows massless elementary particles with mass. The Kercher headline traces the path of the myth boson, one that circulates in the vicinity of certain categories of event – in this case a newspaper headline that lacks mass – and may combine with an event to give it a sheen that could become a glow that might become a radiance. This has little to do with the outcome of a court case, it’s a process looking for an object.


Some years ago GQ magazine sent me to Area 51 in Nevada and Roswell in New Mexico to check out the UFO thing. I was driving my saloon along a very long road in NM when I saw a sign with the legend “Roswell Crash Site: Tours”. I backed up and was able to join a party of the curious as they were escorted, in 4x4s, to an outcrop of rocks amongst several outcrops of rock. The last few hundred yards of the journey were made on foot. I fell to talking with a pleasant man. I asked him what his interest was in the UFO business. He said “I’m a researcher.”
My father was also a researcher, he worked in chemical microbiology. For him, research consisted of testing hypotheses by means of repeated, precise experimentation. It was considered, in his circles, a little off-colour either to ignore inconvenient evidence or to doctor the evidence so that it fitted the hypothesis. The word ‘research’ used loosely, does, of course, simply denote the process of ‘looking into’ or ‘finding out about’ something. This guy near Roswell, however, clearly craved the cachet of being seen as scientific rather than enthusiastic.
The problem here is that UFOs did not land at Roswell or nearby. Or anywhere. Prior to the GQ assignment I looked into some books on UFOs and found them exciting. I subscribed to some remarkable mailing lists on UFOs and read literally hundreds of accounts of encounters of the various kinds. After a few days all the stories sounded the same. My interest in anecdote fell away abruptly and I returned to the sceptical position that had been temporarily sidelined by the welter of late 20th century fairy stories.
ufo.jpg What does warrant continued examination is the matter of people seeing what they want to see. In UFO circles the practice is extreme, considerably more developed than the universal editing tendency to improve or degrade experience, depending on temperament and broad circumstance. Of the varieties of remodelling with which I am familiar, the most fascinating is the one where the modeller sees lights or objects in the sky and then upgrades them. There are many social and psychological factors that can be considered of explanatory value here, but to put it baldly: there are processes of socialisation that teach us all how to ‘see’ in a way that is more than mere physiology but among us there are some that get away.
The ones that get away, the ‘visionaries’, bypass the corral and enjoy a plastic universe. The word ‘enjoy’ feels appropriate because, hey, wouldn’t it be nice to see what you want, out there, not just feel it, in here? Despite my disdain for the narratives used to support such seeings I can’t deny a tinge of envy sometimes. But then I remember the Lens Flare Lady, whose portfolio of flying object photos is packed with night shots of strange lights that are so very obviously optical artifacts that she has learned to produce by cultivating her technical incompetence.
And then I remember Radionics and lose the will to continue writing.

Paris – No Details Available

While Paris was in jail she told Barbara Walters, in a phone call, that ‘I have become more spiritual. God has given me this new chance.’ While this may not prove to be an enduring conversion, the avowal does efficiently illustrate how very few options there are in the American personalityscape. If, for example, an infamous consumer of doughnuts felt the need to change their monodiet for health reasons, they might announce, to those entranced by their fortunes, “From this point on I shall eat only three doughnuts per day, the rest of my calorific requirements to be met by fruits, meats and lettuces. In a few weeks I shall reduce to two doughnuts per day and so forth.” Due to the drama attached to matters of dietary modification, the announcement will invariably take another form – “I have cut doughnuts from my life. Henceforth I shall eat only boiled rice.”
This is the ‘dry drunk’ style of withdrawal wherein the sufferer bounces violently off the wall of glut and is promptly impaled on the railings of abstemiousness without ever passing through an intermediate territory. When not only diet but personal psychology is viewed in this way paris.jpg then all change is violent and does not really constitute change – it’s a shift in tone rather than substance. In such a case the startling absence of psychological detail renders the subject a mythical figure – a cautionary, diagrammatic illustration of potential mishaps. Mythical figures are not people, they generally represent single human characteristics rather than the complex of qualities that comprise flesh and blood persons. We devise mythical figures for the purposes of instruction – they’re not supposed to be something you become.