Life lessons from The Alienist

Friday, May 25, 2018 Permalink

I actually read Caleb Carr’s book The Alienist and its sequel, The Angel of Darkness about 20 years ago, but remembered little about both. Indeed, neither remain on my bookshelves now, so I obviously decided at some point to retire and replace them… shelf space always being at a premium.

But when I saw the original book had been made into a Netflix TV series I jumped right in.

I enjoyed it more than I thought I might, the brooding sets (in particular) doing justice to the late 1800s. (Not that I was around at the time, but… they seemed to reflect the opulence of the upper class and poverty of the lower.)

All of that aside though I was really struck by two things as I watched the show. I warn you in advance, they’re a bit random (and one is as light as the other is heavy). But that’s the delight that is my inner-mind. 🙂

1. What if we’re wrong?

Time, information and technological advances are an amazing thing. Obviously it gives us the benefit of retrospectivity. We can (now) chuckle at those who thought the earth was flat. Or that the world would end with Y2k in 1999; or various apocalypses in 2012, or 2018. Or even that we’d be in flying cars by now.

Unsurprisingly there are many people around who are CERTAIN about stuff. Some may not have science behind them (anti-vaxers come to mind). But some do. Or at least the science and technology currently available to us.


Via on Pinterest

But given some of the experiences of the past and lessons via retrospectivity….

What if we’re wr-wr-wrong?

About stuff. And not just things like sugar being bad for us, or fat being good. Or the importance of breakfast.

I’ve pondered on this a bit lately, thanks in part to The Alienist, which is about a journalist and his ‘alienist’ buddy attempting to put an end to the murder of young boys.

I chuckled at this. But then I was reminded of books I’ve read like The Sleep Room by FR Tallis or (more recently) The Key by Kathryn Hughes, documenting the ways in which we’ve historically treated mental illness (or illness in general). Although sleeping away mental illness sounds kinda relaxing in many ways, some of our past practices for dealing with health ailments are barbaric and just plain illogical.

Tallis’s book (for example, along with others I’ve read set in a similar time) touch on the introduction of  ‘talking therapy’ as a daring alternative to electric currents, just as Hughes’ mentions Freud and psychoanalysis. Naturally those espousing new theories were (at the time) derided for their ridiculous ideas.

So I wonder, if in 50 or 100 years we’ll be able to treat many an illness with medication wondering how on earth our predecessors thought talking to a therapist would replace drugs which can render someone coherent, happy, stop memory loss or cure cancer.

And though I’m pretty sure the earth IS round, what if it actually isn’t? What if we don’t even currently have the technology to see that it’s something else and one day we’ll be the butt of jokes… ‘those who once thought the earth was a three-dimensional sphere…’

Suffice to say, it all makes me wonder if we’re not wrong about more than we know and if we shouldn’t be open to alternatives. Within reason of course.

2. Dark  walls can be really atmospheric

I was a fan of the feature wall back in the day. Now I’m not talking the 1970s wallpapered version – though I know they’ve come back in vogue since – more the ‘painted / textural wall of the early 2000s’.

My place at the moment is very white. Like… very very white. Outside and in. I’ve contemplated the notion of a feature wall in the past – which I pondered in a blog post – though know they’ve become or at least ‘were’) a little passe.

My current job has required me to look at more paint samples and options than I’d ever envisaged doing in the past. And I think it’s that, combined with fabulous instagram accounts like The Girl With The Green Sofa (below) that have had me contemplating a dark feature wall. Or two.

Which brings me back to The Alienist (the show, not the book… obvs) as the sets were glorious. Like I said, they seemed very authentic, but though I’m not a fan of fussy surrounds or brocades and the like, I LOVED the dark painted walls of the houses featured.

Sure they were well… dark. But also richly atmospheric. And I’m thinking how a dark wall or several may in fact help my place look a little less sterile and more moody. And fabulous. Like me, really. 🙂

Are you a fan of the feature wall? Or dark interiors?
And do you think there’s stuff we could be wrong about? Other than the health benefits of red wine of course!

The Lovin’ Life team includes:

50 Shades of Age | Seize the Day Project | And Anyways | Write of the Middle | Deep Fried Fruit.

  • Jo
    May 25, 2018

    The health benefits of red wine is a classic standby, but other than that? Yeah, I reckon we could be wrong about lot’s of stuff. As for dark walls? I love the textural elements that go with them.

    • Debbish
      May 25, 2018

      I can’t help but think the dark walls would work at my place given one entire side of my house is glass windows/doors…. Although whether I just do one or a couple…

  • Sydney Shop Girl
    May 26, 2018

    Thank you for sharing the Maya Angelou quote, Deb. It’s been a week of learning necessary lessons that I initially felt bad about who I could’ve missed them for so long.

    SSG xxx

    • Debbish
      May 27, 2018

      I’ve always loved the quote as I tend to be hard on myself and forget we’re allowed to be beginners. AND…. we’re allowed to make mistakes.

  • Jade Martin
    May 28, 2018

    Your posts are always thought provoking, Deb. I find the ‘what if we were/are wrong’ concept fascinating – especially around health and mental illness, and strangely enough evolution (lol). After a few wines my Mum and I always muse – how many forms of humans have come before us? We know that there was a dinosaur era, the Ice Age, evolution, but what if there were more to the cycle. If maybe this cycle has repeated time and time again, and we don’t know it. (It’s hard to describe in short form, but maybe you catch the gist).

    • Debbish
      May 29, 2018

      Oh yes that sort of thing really intrigues me Jade… the stuff we don’t know – and that we don’t know we don’t know! If that makes sense.

  • Leanne Shea Langdown
    May 31, 2018

    Holy crap Deb. That’s way too deep for this little ol’ duck. I need my Netflixing to be light and rays of sunshine. My brain would hurt thinking this deeply. Sounds intriguing though …. and your thoughts have now got me over thinking … which is not always a good thing. LOL

    • Debbish
      June 1, 2018

      I also watch light stuff – like Lost in Space which I mentioned in this week’s post. And Safe, although it’s a bit more like a BBC/ABC whodunnit type show so not quite as fluffy!

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