VOLCANIC SANCTUARY

Region: Miyake-jima, Japan
Concept: Madness
Sub-Concepts: Worship, Identity

Description: In the early 20th century, the Japanese government decided that the base of the actively volatile Mount Oyama volcano, which constantly emits toxic sulfuric gas, would be the perfect place to perform an experiment. In an effort to measure the resultant psychological repercussions of a society existing in such a dangerously erratic environment, the government erected the Miyake-jima settlement. For these few thousand residents, wearing gas masks was part of everyday life.   Despite lethal air, lava, and endless earthquakes, the experiment’s subjects, even some visitors, found solace in this place. In 2000 the government ordered the 3,600 residents to evacuate; however, in 2005, 2,400 islanders voluntarily returned, for the toxic settlement was their holy home.

MMMMany believe in an almighty power whose hand rests on all things – that some great, all-knowing supremacy plants the seeds of life through all creation. However, many do not live in the presence of this god. Many are not even sure who this being exactly is. However, the mad mind is capable of identifying their idol, and in doing so can establish an existence void of everything but their beloved being. The things of this world mean nothing. Their holy obsession devours and destroys reality, and the mind is consumed. All sense of self is lost, and daily life transforms into a holy shrine where the mad and their deity dwell as one.
MMMTo the outsider, the Miyake-jima settlement may be seen as a prison. Forced to wear a gas mask every moment of the day and constantly existing under the inevitable unknown truth that an eruption is bound to transpire, to many, living a life at the base of a volatile volcano would be a form of torment and entrapment. However, to the settlement’s residents, living anywhere else but this lethal environment would be the true torture. The volcano is their god – only here can they simultaneously reside with their idol and relish its majesty.
MMMThe mad has seen the face of their god.   They have been enlightened, and now live life with intent. Daily existence is transformed into a continual exaltation of their beloved being. No longer living for oneself, each day exists to venerate and worship their ethereal entity. With every breath, the mad draws closer to their idol, until finally they cross mortality’s threshold and reach the pinnacle moment of holy unification and self-annihilation.
MMMThe mad do not lead a life orchestrated by societal standards that merely exist in order to distract the common civilian from the realization that their existence is quite empty – that their daily actions have no meaning, serve no purpose, worship no almighty power. The mad is merely “crazed” due to their closeness with their absolute supremacy. The hands of their god have touched them, and existence can never be the same. In 1951, American ornithologist Jack Moyer was impacted in such a way, and his life was irrevocably altered. Originally coming to the Miyake-jima settlement to study the rare Japanese Murrelet, Moyer found himself assimilating into the gas mask island’s way of life. He abandoned his sense of self and lived his life as a testimony of his beloved being’s majesty – the volcano became his god. After the island was evacuated in 2000, Moyer was unable to return with the other 2,400 islanders. He was ripped from his home, taken from his god, and had nowhere to turn: “What’s the point of going back to the United States? I am a Miyake man. The islanders are my people.” Moyer ended up taking residence in Tokyo, and four years after his forced exit from his volcanic sanctuary, Moyer was found dead, having taken his own life. An existence void of his god was unbearable – society’s commonalities proved meaningless, and life was not worth living.
MMMWhen mad, one carefully constructs his or her existence in an effort to not merely feel close to their god, but to be one with their god. The outsider may see such a life as a prison; however, what can be more liberating than spending every moment with the one you adore and worship? Those of the world are the ones in chains– for they do not touch, smell, see, hear, or taste their supremacy. They do not even know the face of their god, and what a sad, sorrowful existence that must be.
MMMLucky is the madman who lives in an environment where his god can instantaneously erupt, consuming his body and solidifying their unification.

http://www.travelcreepster.com/miyakejima-gas-mask-island.html#.VC9XC0s7VBU
http://weburbanist.com/2014/06/18/7-extreme-human-habitats-unexpected-urban-wonders/

Rebekah Wade