Sunday, August 14, 2016

More Christof Koch: Der Ring des Nibelungen

Richard Wagner’s monumental Der Ring des Nibelungen is a series of four operas centered on the conflict between fate and freedom. Unrestrained by fear or by the mores of society, the hero, Siegfried, kills the dragon, walks through the ring of fire to woo Brünhilde, and shatters the spear of Wotan, precipitating the destruction of the old world order of the gods. Siegfried follows no laws but his inner desires and impulses. He is free, but he acts blindly, without understanding the consequences of his actions. (It is likely that Siegfried had lesions in his amygdala— he did not know fear— and his ventromedial prefrontal cortex, depriving him of decision-making skills. Genetic and developmental factors contributed to his dysfunctional behavior: his parents were siblings; he was raised as an orphan by a sole caretaker, a quarrelsome dwarf obsessed with a hoard of gold; and he grew up isolated in the depth of the German forest. This lack of social skills ultimately led to his murder at the hand of Hagen, a trusted friend.)

Koch, Christof. Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist (MIT Press) (pp. 94-95). The MIT Press. Kindle Edition.