I've pondered this for a while, long enough to be unfashionably late to the dance at Meta Essay Hall. For those who are interested, though, this is a poor explanation of why I loved one aspect of "Flesh and Stone" (and "The Time of Angels" as well) so very, very much.
Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels' hierarchies?
And even if one of them pressed me suddenly against his heart:
I would be consumed in that overwhelming existence.
For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror,
Which we are just able to endure,
And we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
Every angel is terrifying.
- Rainer Maria Rilke
I think the fear of unthinking destruction is deep in humans.
We fear things that destroy us for no reason, and without reason. We fear fire and flood, we fear that the earth can move and destroy us without the chance of us reasoning with it, convincing it not to destroy us. Perhaps that's why we created gods, because we knew, we just knew, if the earth understood us, if the fire could listen, if the flood could be argued with, we would convince them of our worth. We could make them love us, and not destroy us.
Our imaginations can take that fear and imbue almost anything with it.
(I, for instance, am afraid of insects and zombies - both fears laughable, and both fueled by the same thing; the fear of something that can hurt me without reason, in both senses of that phrase. I could even argue that zombies are a recursive distillation of fear. Fear of unreasoning death, and fear of death itself; a thing which doesn't think, but which moves, and which moves only to kill, and which is already dead - it really doesn't bear thinking about, and yet I do. Which is the curse of reason. But I digress.)
But what if that deep and abiding fear in humans was misdirected, at least a bit?
By which I mean, what if there was something of which we should be far more frightened, and aren't? What if, beyond unreasoning destruction by that which doesn't reason, there are things which knowingly destroy us, and do so because they know they can? That reason, but with which we still cannot reason?
That's not the earth moving and covering us. That's not the fire consuming us. That isn't the whirlwind or the flood. That isn't even zombies.
Those things ... at least we know that the fire and whirlwind don't set out to destroy us. They don't enjoy hurting us. They hate nothing, and if they don't love us, they at least destroy us in a pure act of unknowing, the pattern of which is beyond us, but doesn't actively negate us. We can approach a sort of cautious and fearful detente with that kind of terror.
He spake well who said that graves are the footprints of angels. - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
But a reasoning being who delights in destroying other reasoning beings is a perversion that goes far beyond zombies.
It's every child that pulls the wings off flies because she likes to do it. It's every boy who hits a smaller one because it makes him happy to make his victim cry. It's every girl who tells her best friend she's a fat loser. It's every adult who threatens to put a child in the dark where the devil will get her, because it's fun to frighten a child. It's every boss who chews out employees with insults and put-downs because he can, and for no other reason.
When it grows up, it's Hannibal Lector. Worse, it's Ted Bundy. It's Brady and Hindley, it's Irma Grese.
It hurts us because it wants to see us scream. It destroys us, but not without telling us what it's doing. And it speaks. It reasons.
I think that's why we humans fear it less - and why we should fear it more.
We are lulled by reason. We're lulled when someone speaks to us, no matter how horribly he is treating us. Somewhere inside us we're convinced we can change his mind, because he has a mind. We're certain we can make her understand our side, convince her of her fellowship with us and thereby convince her to stop hurting us. We believe that we can appeal to the better angels of their nature.
But we can't. We find no brotherhood, no sisterhood. They look like us, but underneath, something is off, something is broken, something is missing. Just enough so that they delight in destruction and pain and fear. We can't appeal to their angels, because their angels are fallen. And we can't help them back up, because they are busy killing us; in the flesh or in the spirit.
Perhaps someone else can raise them back, some god can return to them their wings. But we won't know it, because they have destroyed us.
The angel of the Lord came upon them ... and they were sore afraid - Luke 2:9
And before we go, they delight in that airless moment when we understand our pending destruction. When they move toward us and we can see it, and they know we can see it.
And that, friends, is why the angels in "Flesh and Stone" frighten me far more deeply than they did in "Blink."
The angels in Blink, fangs and all, are the whirlwind, the unknowing and unknown destruction of the moving earth that covered Port Au Prince. They are a mystery, and a terror, but ultimately pure and disinterested, as Rilke said.
Rilke's angels are terrifying, but the comfort of which he writes - so appropriate and applicable to Blink - is worse than wrong when it comes to Flesh and Stone
The angels in Flesh and Stone are Lector and Bundy and Grese, as they speak with the voice of a frightened boy, and tell us what they did to hiim.
They are fallen angels, and they remind us that we are all too often the fallen angels of our own dark natures.
The only angel who sees us now watches through each others eyes - Rickie Lee Jones