Tohu wa Bohu

by alice alexandra moore

Surreal Nonfiction
2018

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An exploration of depersonalization-derealization disorder, December 19, 2018

I looked it up: apparently "Tohu Wa Bohu" is a Hebrew phrase. It appears in the second verse of the biblical book of Genesis, where it is translated "without form, and void."

One of art's many purposes is to serve as therapy for the artist. Someone might write poetry to deal with the end of a romantic relationship, for instance, or perhaps paint to help cope with a child's suicide. For many years I kept a daily journal, and spending time each day organizing my thoughts helped me make sense of the events in those periods of my life. (Perhaps my journal entries aren't truly art, but writing them felt therapeutic in the same way I'm talking of here.)

Tohu Wa Bohu feels very much like it served as therapy for the author. It feels, to me, like something deeply personal. The work's blurb indicates this: "An immersive exploration of chronic depersonalization / derealization disorder. Content warning: This true story deals in part with suicidal ideation." So it's a true story. But it's not really a story in the conventional sense. Instead, you're taking a quiz about whether you have feelings of depersonalization. So the true story must be the author's, the one that underlies all of the quiz questions and answers.

One aspect of art-as-therapy is that the more personal it is the less universal it tends to be. And I think that's the case with Tohu Wa Bohu: It's very personal. But unless you've experienced something like what the author has gone through then it may be difficult to relate to the work. That's where I fall, I'm afraid, with Tohu Wa Bohu. (And that's probably how most people would respond to my journal entries from my college days, frankly. I'm still glad I wrote them.)

So, I don't feel like I can rate Tohu Wa Bohu. I do, however, appreciate what the author was trying to do with this work. It looks like he put a lot of effort into it, and I hope it helped him through what he's been struggling with. And I hope that others reading it who have had struggles similar to the author's will also resonate with it.