Mystery after QAnon
Where this may go, god knows. I feel, on the topic of mystery or mythology of any sort, quite lost at the moment––in a maze. On one hand, there are things and people I admire, things in myself that I like, that are less than a hundredth of a hair’s-breadth away from things I find most depraved. QAnon, for instance, is disturbingly close to what we, with the shake of a head, would all profess to venerate in literature, art, religion, even in science. The not-to-be-named past leader was so close to American religion that they unthinkably breached that hair’s breadth and fused into one.
May we speak of a collective imagination? A national imagination? If so, I feel that ours is presently, badly, almost fatally f–––ed up. Even Phillip Roth, the great American novelist, spoke of his fatigue with the face paint and wig of fiction. Even the most legitimate forms of make-believe are starting to feel phony. I care as a citizen. I care as an artist, whose whole lexicon of making is contingent on a reasonably healthy cultural imagination.
This rot––if my thesis is even close to being right—is very different from the darkness, the wildness, the demonic that has always belonged to dreams, to myths, to science, to art. Who knows what Purple Rain really means? On this point I differ severely with moralists who want to purify the world of darkness and ‘sin’ and all the funky colors of rain. All you get are psychoses and Southern preachers.
Too often we as a nation have wanted our mysteries spooned to us either in the sugared unguents of literalism or sentimentality. Under the latter umbrella I include everything from druids singing songs in the woods to fundamentalist prayer meetings to Hollywood horror and violence. The capitol attack, however valid or invalid may have been the root sources of discontent, was spurred forward by a jangled symphony of truly sick, truly simplistic mythologies. Myth is not rocket science, but neither is it a matter of tree-leaf ecstasies, Hallmark gods and masculine bravado.
I love the potency of imagination. Magic, ineffability, faith pale in contrast to the wonder of the mind’s own ‘magic’, that jubilant thousand acre nuclear power plant––imagination. (It’s why I love Jung.) So why do we sentimentalize it, contort it, bastardize it to the point where Jesus banners are smashing capitol windows and half a nation is convinced that liberals eat babies?
Why this lunatic confusion (in the arts as well, I might add)? Dunno. I said, I have no answers here. I’m as bewildered as you. I like religion (sometimes); I like unreligion; I like paganism, I like science, and am wildly grateful for my two vaccines. I like poetry and art. I love love. I quite adore my wife. There are kinds of imagination that are proper to each one and I love them all. And yet the two great sovereign whales of the past century, reason and ‘spirituality’, whales that should swim easily together, have remained bitter antagonists. And that ongoing antagonism, perpetuated for profit and power, keeps our mythologies, far too often, infantile. Embattled.
Don’t you want to say, just kiss and make up!
Imagine, then, a cosmic laundromat, big enough to wash our national imagination clean, not of its darkness and funk, but of delusion, warfare, hysteria and dirt.
Image: Vision de Tondal, after H. Bosch