I’m sure it’s being written now, an in-depth look at fantasy over these recent anguished months, from bedtime stories to dance undertaken in clover fields to the White House itself. Anywhere that make-believe occurs.
Belief, as a friend observes, is when a patient, dying of #COVID, still denies that COVID exists and in fact scorchingly upbraids her nurses for wearing masks and shields (South Dakota). Faith, when settled upon, has Olympian powers of denial, a prodigious ‘ethical’ algorithm snuffing out all plausible counter-evidence.
But who needs another excoriation of American faith for denying COVID and for embracing, well, X? The squalor of both speak for themselves.
Still, we wonder why. Perhaps when belief is assailed by new, more plural presumptions about life, by science, understandably it gets anxious and shaky; old sanctities wobble. Fantasies, in turn, are enlarged and inflamed to sandbag those beliefs. Opportunists only make things worse, dispensing their lizard-skin lies––which of course can hardly be lies if they make you feel good, juice your ‘righteousness’ and bestow free hats. We know leader X did not win, but we also know by turning the fantasy dial that he won by a freakin’ landslide.
My mother believed the world was made in six days. Her brick wall riposte was always––the Bible says so. (Gaw! Six days. What could I do as a kid but sputter and get more provocative yet––mom, what’s so bad about sex?)
So yes, there’s the delusional side of fantasy, of faith. Sometimes innocent, sometimes bleak and lethal, recalling Goya’s monsters rising from the sleep of reason, and looking, with creepy similitude, like a bunch of Republican senators.
On the good side––Carl J#ung (surprised?). Much that he said about the mysterious depths of the mind was in fact already implicit in religion, the good, difficult, aesthetic, imaginal parts of faith that still, fifty years after I left mine, sneak their finicky, benevolent questions into my mailbox. #Fantasy, Jung would say, is weird, cryptic and dark; fantasy assails convention like a wolf sometimes, but it’s never a delusion; rather it is the hard, crying, clarifying demon of our being.
Like you, I see the cynical lunacy right now. I also see the numinous. Most people I know, in compiling the bric-a-brac of their lives, want #spirituality there, both the dark of it and the light. John Donne is on their bookshelf. They want, for all their necessary practicality, some stained glass over the door, some broken vase of visionary imagination; they want their ‘dead’ to be present, as James Hillman once styled those sepia grandparent pictures. Goya’s monsters rise as often from the nullification of fantasy as from the sleep of reason.
Do. Be angry at our leaders; they know precisely what they are doing. But for three golden codgers in a Waffle House in Indiana, disenchanted with progress, feeling left out of the game, delusion may be the last sandbag against the unthinkable (loss of ways of living, loss of status, loss of belief). I’ve talked with them. They live in a fairy tale world where I go to hell and they go to heaven. I’m fine with that. These fairy tales, though, are getting out of hand. The open gets closed, the plural turns monolithic, the free sours to despotic. I’m not at all fine with that.
Can we find some equipoise, some balance? Reason needs fantasy, mind needs soul. When they can’t get along, one becomes insular and arrogant, the other immature and zealous. Sad, when the marriage could be so good.
The quest for that #equilibrium, the dialing down of madness, is a task that lies heavily ahead.