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When artistic genres set out to re-awaken our sense of fantasy, they immediately rush us headlong into semantic confusion. Fantasy, as most of us know it, means thoughts that are not real. In such thoughts, we envision what we would like to be real instead of what is real, or go into worlds where the impossible is possible.
As we make our way through a world where people are either rich, or will face ugly facts about survival, and either have power, or are literally ignored, we often find fantasy to be useless. We clutch whatever security blanket is at hand, either trying to join the power or rejecting it in favor of humanism, but no blanket works. Each blanket is its own orbit and there is no singularity of them which can change what our fantasy would will otherwise.
Like most things, the truth of fantasy -- by which I mean its effects in reality if we analyze it and reality, and look for correspondences between the two -- is dual, because it depends on the duality of our knowledge of both self and world. Fantasy trapped within us becomes nothing, but fantasy can guide us toward a clearer view of what might replace this network of drifting security blankets and no security.
Taking our fantasy from inward to outward states requires we understand the difference between fantasy that is a closed circuit, or locked entirely within us, and fantasy as a way to view the world. The lens through which we view the world can waver between closed-circuit and open depending on how in touch with reality we are. The distinction is for that reason not categorical so much as a measurement of our intent, and our psychological health.
Closed circuit fantasies abandon hopes of realism. It is like they have rejected the world by saying the good, the object of the fantasy, cannot happen there. You may note similarities to pornography, drugs and fanatical religion in this observation. These are not fantasies as much as they are palliative treatment for souls weary of a dying world, and those who have lost the will not to fight as much as to create a better alternative.
Fantasies in this sense are like chaos. Some chaos is lively, birthing stars and universes. Other chaos is dead, entropic, a lack of organization so profound that all becomes grey and listless because there are no decisions of consequence left to make. In this sense, there is an order to chaos, like there is an order to fantasy that is open to the world. Active chaos, and open fantasies, are a source of life, while their closed variant are an introversion that invariably proves nullifying.
As a viewpoint, fantasy is a matter of scope. To have any fantastical thoughts, you must be willing to cast aside the cants/wonts of our current time, and seemingly impossible physical barriers, in order to see what would be beautiful, epic, amazing, or significant. These measurements are not like measurements of the physical world, because they measure not only more than one thing at a time, but assess the juncture of those things into something that stands on its own. It is its own reason for existing.
It would take this kind of thought for slumbering chaos to create a universe. It might take this kind of thought for a slumbering species to re-introduce itself to glory, creativity, honesty and realistic idealism.
Like the worldview of Romantic poets, fantasy is a portal of organizing thoughts. You do not look at the individual. You do not look at one single generation. You do not look at the practical. You do not look simply at the aesthetic. You unite all of these things into the inspiring. It is a thought process like religion, without the dogmatic surrogacy of reality that we associate with modern religion.
Arthur Schopenhauer wrote about the necessity of idealism, or realizing that thoughts matter more than reality, because the universe acts as if it was composed of thoughts, and thoughts are how we see our way past seeming barriers that have nothing to do with the actual creation of greatness. A moron sees the unyielding soil; a genius sees the field of crops or great city that can spring from it. Idealism unites imagination, creativity and knowledge of the world, or philosophy. It is perhaps the highest state of the human mind.
The people who have invested themselves in doubt because they are afraid of hope will have a problem with this. They say: what if I am stupid or psychotic, is not my idealism then a bad thing? They would like to imply that all idealism is categorically bad because one person's idealism is insane. A smarter view is that an insane person will screw up anything they touch, but idealism like a mattock is a creative tool in the right hands and a destructive tool in the wrong ones. But there is a partial truth in their statement.
That partial truth is that we must find a way to determine honest idealism from closed-circuit fantasy, or "crap" in the parlance of philosophers. Using the same lens that shows us beauty, we can see that honest idealism unites all things in consciousness and physical reality alike, where dishonest idealism is based on unrealistic outcomes. Our scientific method becomes a test here, but we cannot apply it linearly, as if searching for one category to label negative and thus reject the whole (reminds me of the logic of suicides: today, I cannot eat cake, so my life is lost, adieu!).
Immanuel Kant provided an answer, and F.W. "Fred" Nietzsche fused that with the work of Schopenhauer to give us a coherent statement. Viz:
"There are ages in which the rational man and the intuitive man stand side by side, the one in fear of intuition, the other with scorn for abstraction. The latter is just as irrational as the former is inartistic. They both desire to rule over life: the former, by knowing how to meet his principle needs by means of foresight, prudence, and regularity; the latter, by disregarding these needs and, as an "overjoyed hero," counting as real only that life which has been disguised as illusion and beauty. Whenever, as was perhaps the case in ancient Greece, the intuitive man handles his weapons more authoritatively and victoriously than his opponent, then, under favorable circumstances, a culture can take shape and art's mastery over life can be established. All the manifestations of such a life will be accompanied by this dissimulation, this disavowal of indigence, this glitter of metaphorical intuitions, and, in general, this immediacy of deception: neither the house, nor the gait, nor the clothes, nor the clay jugs give evidence of having been invented because of a pressing need."
We must look into our intuition, Nietzsche argues, because only there are we freed from the terrible rationality that forces our thoughts into primitive linear algebra. When we make ourselves intuitive, we overcome the trapped-ness in our selves that fantasy makes us escape by looking at the wide open fields of battle and ancient kingdom; it is a view inherently outside the individual, but incorporating the individual who yearns to participate in something beautiful that leads to greatness. It is a gateway to the frontier of heroism.
Intuitive people (can't forget the ladies) are in short supply these days because the algebra of basic thought appeals to the largest masses, and the categorical logic that accompanies it makes it easy to reject anything which requires we leave ourselves and our closed-circuit pleasure-seeking materialism. If you are afraid you do not measure up, or know you're stupid compared to history's heroes, the last thing you want is to rely on intuition. You fear what crawls in the back of your brain because it is destructive, because it is self-serving and closed-circuit, so its only goal is domination of the outward world to bolster a flagging soul within. (The suicide thinks: if I mail order a cake, I will have a reason to live, not knowing that the selfless moment of enjoyment of cake is what he seeks, not the cake as thing-in-itself!)
When we get ahead in this society, and we'd better succeed because without two million in the bank your kids go to the useless public schools and your medical care is second rate and you live near the ghetto and you retire to poverty and you have no power to change anything except the channel on your TV, we do so by appealing to the algebraic masses. No one got rich saying religion is a complex subject that demands an intellectual and moral elite to apply it. They get rich by telling you that you, too, can have God next to you on the sofa, and he wants you to buy that new pickup truck with the built-in DVD player and GPS.
The intuitive person is entirely contrary to this modern, or to be accurate we should call it "end-stage civilization," disease. The intuitive person sees fascination with the paradoxically temporary material and social power as missing the point, which is that with ideals we reach toward the future, but with materialism, we divide up the now and move back into the past. We regress because we have lost a sense of momentum and with it, have lost our values, so nothing but decay into entropic chaos awaits us.
The others fear the intuitive person because in that person they see the end of the dream, which is that they can exist apart from reality and still be as important to themselves as they always imagined themselves to be. Morons believe they cannot make positive change, so they fear those who have that in their eyes. Fearful people follow the morons, and even smart people get brainwashed because all of their friends, neighbors, coworkers and religious leaders bleat the same hopeless, suicide, algebraic logic into their heads.
They hate you, intuitive person, because you are the end of their illusion. Do people like illusion? All animals do. If there is a snake curved above you, venom dripping idly as it searches, you do well to go into denial because to run is to die. There's a chance then that it will overlook you. We evolved denial as honestly as breathing. A human being living on the open ocean in a boat that leaks, but not so much it cannot be bailed out at night, may stare fondly at the sound boat fifty yards away. But such a risk -- fifty yards of open ocean -- that could be sure death, while in the leaky boat, it's slow death, waiting for the day when one is too sick, tired or drunk to bail, and the water rises too high to be countered.
In the infinitely wise design of our spirits, this is why we have realistic fantasy. It stirs in us a longing for the ideal of crossing that open ocean so profound that it sickens us not to have it, and if we choose not to introvert, we will act on it. All of the best of humanity came from this impulse, from making fire to planting fields to inventing language to organizing thought. It is yearning. It is romantic. It is a bonding to life that can only be called love, because for a moment you forget the negative and concentrate your entire will on its transcendence through achievement of a real goal.
When societies die, it is because their intuitive people dwindled in number because it is not profitable enough to be intuitive that one stays out of the ghetto, and can have a healthy family, or live well at all. The masses cheer at the death of the intuitive and then fall silent as they do when a cloud slides across the sun. Random chance, or the angel of death? The invisible world of predicting reality is a mystery to their algebraic brains, but not to the intuitive person who considers all factors at once, and the masses hate the fact they cannot see this as well. They transfer this hate to the messenger, and will crucify him or declare him a monster.
They create their doom by forcing every single person into a reality so literal it reduces life to individual competing against all others for dwindling resources. They remove all idealism, thinking this cuts them free from obligation to act outside of themselves, and by doing so introduce so many equal and opposite counteractions that soon their society is awash in decay. They think they have made the world safe for humanity by eliminating anything that could cause any one person to leave their personal illusion, but by doing that, they detach society from reality and it heads down the path of civilizations failed, as many have in the past.
Civilizations are born from active chaos and fantasy, and they die in entropic chaos, when all decisions are going through the motions in order to crawl above the rest, and soon only the vicious triumph over the masses, and then the masses get that same gleam in their eyes and vanquish their overlords. It is like the suicide who by giving up on the potential for good things in life, gives up on herself, and so dies not from a vicious self-hatred but from a lack of anything else to do or anywhere else to go. Entropy wins at a crawl.
We are now seeing the culmination of this mess in the West. If you are not a coward, and you love life, you will want to counteract this, but you can only counteract chaos by giving order, not by slicing at heads of an infinite hydra. The people around you will almost all lapse into closed circuit fantasy in a desperate attempt to ignore the obvious, but to do so is to go slowly into doom and not avert it. You will want another solution.
Nihilism is like fantasy a portal, but it is a more literal one. For your fantasies not to be closed circuit, you need them to correspond to the mechanism of reality, and for that, you need to clear your head of all the extraneous garbage that has been thrown into it by drowning monkeys seeking any justification they can find for remaining in denial. When you look at the literal reality, you can understand the design of the universe as a whole intersecting, and from that you can construct an intuitive, beautiful future.
This is the language of honest fantasy, and when it awakens mortals, the times of greatness return through the acts of heroes. If not, maybe the lizards will evolve intelligence enough to replace us.
January 25, 2008