The Bound Man: A Decronstruction with Shadow Projections
by Tim Cloward 1/2/88

Add Introduction - with carnival music and searchlight

“It was evening when the man awoke to find himself bound.

“He showed no sign of fear or hurry, though he thought he was unable to move, and he soon discovered that the rope allowed his legs some free play and that round his body it was almost loose.  His arms were tied to each other but not to his body, and had some free play too.

“He decided to stand up.  He drew his knees up as far as he could and jerked himself up.  He collapsed to the ground, half out of his mind in pain, and then tried again - with the same results.

“He then lay still again for a long while and slept.

“When he awoke the second time, he realized his chances all lay in the amount of free play allowed him by the rope.  As soon as the rope tautened he stopped, and tried again more cautiously.  He tested the ground with his toes and then managed to stand up almost without effort.

“He tied to loosen the rope but could make it no looser.

“He tried walking and discovered that he could put one foot before another if he lifted each foot a definite distance from the ground and then put it down before the rope tautened.  In the same way he could actually swing his arms a little.

“”He was alone and as he walked he felt in control of himself again.

“As the man walked towards the village, he spotted a bottle in the moonlight.  He bent carefully down to pick it up.  He hoped to dash it against a stone and use the splintered neck to cut the rope.

“At just that time the Circus Master, who was camping nearby with his circus, spotted the Bound Man and, thinking his movements extraordinarily graceful, approached him.

Circus Master:
“Ladies and Gentleman, the Bound Man!
Step right up, come see
this miraculous new man,
this man who binds himself
with no one else’s help,
this man whose helplessness
is the only thing that protects him,
ladies and gentleman, come see the Bound Man -
“come in, yet be silent,
for what can thou say, indeed?

“For centuries you have been wrestling with thy freedom, but now it is ended and over for good.  Dost thou not believe that it is over for good?  Thou lookest meekly at me and deigned not even be wroth with me.  But let me tell thee that now, today, people are more persuaded than ever that they have perfect freedom, yet you have brought your freedom to us and laid it humbly at our feet.

“You claim it as a merit for yourself that, at last, you have vanquished freedom and have done so to make men happy.  For now, for the first time, it has become possible to think of the happiness of men.

“We have persuaded you that you will only become free when you renounce your freedom to us and submit to us.  And are we right or lying?  Yes, we shall set you to work, but in your leisure hours we shall make your life a child’s game with children’s song and innocent dance.  We shall give you the quiet humble happiness of weak creatures such as man is by nature.”

“So come see before you finally
this one among millions,
this one happy man,
ladies and gentlemen, come and see the Bound Man!”

“The Bound Man became an enormous draw.

“His absurd steps and little jumps, his elementary exercises in movement, made the rope dancers superfluous.  His fame grew from village to village.

“The motions he went through were few and always the same; they were really quite ordinary motions, which he had continually practiced in the daytime.  In that he remained entirely within the limits set by his rope he was free of it, it did not confine him but gave him wings and endowed his leaps and jumps with purpose.

“The circus patrons asked him how he had come to be tied up like that and he always answered patiently, always saying the same thing: Yes, he had been tied up, he said, and when he awoke he found that he had been robbed as well.  Those who had done it had tied him somewhat loosely though, the people pointed out, and they added that he was able to and did move.  Yes, he replied, what else could he do?

“When the Circus Master asked him why he didn’t make up a better story he always answered that he hadn’t made up that one, and blushed.”

Sigmund Freud:
“Now, life as we find it, is too hard for us; it brings us too many pains, disappointments and impossible tasks.  Man strives after all for happiness; he wants nothing so much as to become happy and to remain so endlessly.
So, what is it that you see in this -

“You see, human life in common is only made possible when a majority comes together which is stronger than any separate individuals.  This Replacement of the power of the individual by the power of the community constitutes the decisive step in civilization: the members of the community restrict themselves in their possibilities of satisfaction, where the individual knew no such restrictions.
And what do you see here -

“Man’s last possible consolation, you understand, is in his unconditional surrender.  A good part of the struggles of mankind center round this single task of finding an expedient accommodation - one, that is, that will bring happiness between this claim of the individual and the cultural claims of the group.”

“The difference between the Bound Man and the other performers was that when the show was over he did not take off his rope.

“The Circus Master, who in reality would have been prepared cheerfully to sacrifice all his lions and his rope dancers for the Bound Man, was well aware that in the last resort what protected the Bound Man from the other performers was his helplessness.

“The Circus Master had fired the clown for attempting to cut the Bound Man’s rope with a pair of scissors.  These antics amused the Bound Man because he could have freed himself if he had wanted to whenever he liked.”

Sigmund Freud:
“It has become obvious that civilized man has exchanged a portion of his possibilities of happiness for a portion of security.
So what do you see here -

“Civilization, you see, obtains mastery over the individual’s dangerous desire for affection by weakening and disarming it and by setting up an agency within him to watch over it like a garrison in a conquered city.  This super-ego is an agency that functions by keeping a watch over the actions and intentions of the ego and judging them, exercising a censorship.  This self-censorship is the immediate expression of fear of the external authority, a recognition of the tension between the ego and authority.
Can you see anything in this picture -

“This tension is the direct derivative of the conflict between the need for the authority’s love and the urge towards instinctual satisfaction, whose inhibition produces the inclination to aggression . . . . . we are dealing here with an aggressiveness which has been displaced inwards . . . . the price we have to pay, you understand, for our advance in civilization is a loss of happiness through guilt.”

Circus Master:
“Ladies and gentlemen, the Bound Man!
Come see this miracle
of a man’s mastery of himself.
You who scoff, you who believe
this as some trickery and sham,
come and check the rope
come and satisfy yourselves
that these knots are real and this rope is not made of rubber.
See how he is bound and a model of contentment -

“Didst thou forget that man prefers peace, and even death, to freedom of choice in the knowledge of good and evil?

“Nothing is more seductive for man than his freedom of conscience, but nothing is a greater cause of suffering.  And men rejoice when they are again lead like sheep - for nothing is so insupportable for a man and a human society than freedom.  In the end you will lay your freedom down at our feet and say to us  ‘Make me your slave, but make me happy.’  You will understand at last, that freedom and happiness enough for all are  inconceivable together, for man is tormented by no greater anxiety than to find someone quickly to whom he can hand over that terrible gift of freedom.”

“So ladies and gentlemen
come and see how this man
is bound by his own volition,
this miraculous thing,
come and examine with your own eyes,
this Bound Man!"

“By and by, when the season changed from Summer to the first chill of Fall, he found he no longer had any purpose for his rope.

“Eventually the rope curled up in a tangle beside him while he struggled free.

“He ran to the river, hearing behind him the footsteps of his pursuers - the spectators, the rope dancers and the Circus Master.  He hid in a clump of bushes and listened to them hurrying past, and later on streaming in the opposite direction back to the village.

“At the river his anger died away.  At midnight it seemed to him as if lumps of ice were floating in the water, and as if snow had fallen, obliterating memory.”

Text adapted from:
Ilsa Aichinger/Bound Man (E. Mosbacher)
Fyodor Dostoevsky/The Brothers Karamosov (C. Garnett)
Sigmund/Civilization and its Discontents (J. Strachen)