Wednesday, May 15, 2019


frontispiece l871 edition of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
If you’re prone to claustrophobia you probably won’t be a candidate for submarine travel. On March 26, 2012 James Cameron the film director famous for the Titanic made a 6.8 mile dive into Challenger Deep in the Pacific’s Mariana Trench in a 24 foot long submersible. Even Jules Verne couldn’t have imagined this reality when he wrote Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. And then there are the astronauts on the space station who are forced to live in constricted space over long periods with Scott Kelly setting the record at 340 days. Obviously there are certain people who can deal with confinement and others for whom it leads to insanity. Enhanced interrogation procedures used on suspected 9/11 terrorists included confinement in a coffin like box. But what is the basis for the fear of closed spaces? Where does it emanate from? For instance, the period of gestation gives way to the trauma of birth so there's obviously must be some biological footprint created by the umbilical attachment that exists in every individual's psychohistory. For some access to this kind of confinement is obviously comforting or at least endurable, but others become disconcerted at even the least intimation of enclosure. If you’ve ever been on a stalled subway or elevator you can spot those who are particularly vulnerable by the terror that appears in their eyes. Some people won’t lock bathroom doors and some won’t go into a closet for fear of the door jamming behind them. Perhaps one source of the problem lies in the notion of being forgotten. The chain of thoughts might go something like this. You're inserted into  the narrow cylinder of an MRI just as the hospital starts to burn down. In the ensuing panic you're left there and forgotten as the technicians flee and you end up suffocating to death.

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