fantasy, sanctuary and self-worth

I got a small but unpleasant reminder recently of how people consider some lives more valuable than others, as in arguments as to who doesn’t deserve medical drug funding, versus traditionally valued groups. There are all kinds of instances where people will be more affected by the proximity of suffering to their own lives, but that tends to be genuine ignorance of what is more distant. Consciously seeing whole groups as second class or disposable, and effectively arguing for it though, that seems a bit more “advanced”. I’d understand it more if it was a “no lives matter” approach that treated all groups and all people equally, but that isn’t the deal. The deal is “my life is worth more, no comment needed”*, even when it is said to your face. But hey, group identification is always a smelly business.

Such things bring back a lot of sense of how hopeless human life seems to some people though, because honestly, it stinks. I very much understand people feeling that some things will just never change, when you see the density of the consciousness involved. It is always interesting to see who we protect, and who we ignore and sacrifice, as a society. It is generally hidden from examination, under the cloak of “virtue” or “necessity”. And people wonder why I’m a Satanist?

Of course things can change with respect to this or that, and I advise people to think as individuals and try to ignore the unpleasantness of politics and group identification, and there is always magick. But following this I got to thinking on the value of fantasy to people.

Fantasy is a great relief from life, and both in literature and film is very popular, but also tends to be much derided as “serious” art. Science fiction would be a good example, but so would vampire stories, horror and supernatural fiction, and genres that contain alternative mythological worlds (I would guess the world of gaming might overlap here, though I don’t know a lot about it). Contrast this with the world of the respectable novel, which reflects the “real” world of the present. Fantasy literature potentially provides a kind of deliverance from “the world” and its norms.

Similarly in music, while hordes will follow the boy-meets-girl, I love you baby, ooh yeah girl, hey boy (the sexuality of the singer can never be left in doubt, even for the space of an absent word in romantic genres generally), it’s people with different sensibilities, who maybe don’t fit the great tribal family based society, who will go for things like metal say.

With quite a lot of these forms of art, they get criticized for being emotionally undeveloped in terms of relationships and romance, for being kinda “autistic” (there could be more than one post just on the misuse of that word), but for a good section of people, it is the conformism, the unspoken inflicting of value and erasure, the extraction of an arbitrary and undiscussed price, which conventional relationships in society cement. Not that fantasy doesn’t include relationship, it clearly does, and sometimes romantically, but fantasy itself involves a great act of imaginative negation, which is one of our major, uncorrupted human capacities. It is a world undone, and then reimagined. The same capacity gives us just about everything new and helpful, usually with a mob in opposition, either with pitchforks and Bibles, or ridiculing put downs.

People wonder why kids, and people of all ages, immerse themselves in fantasy, geek out on sci-fi or games, think they have the souls of animals or dragons, or go crazy on Harry Potter or vampires or Lord of the Rings. I say fucking well good for you. And if you find fellowship with others in the process, even better.

Don’t let the tribalists and family values creeps get you down. It may take more than imagination, but it’s a damn good start.

By Mike Wutzler AKA Darth Mike (Own work) [GFDL Replica of the One ring from The Hobbit and The Lord of the rings trilogy(http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or FAL], via Wikimedia Commons

* as in the life of someone like me, the group I identify with, not just personal survival.

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10 Comments

  1. Yeah, to hell with reality I say. 🙂 Or at least, idealized reality. Everyone wants to impose their “truth”, their version of reality upon you, and I can’t help thinking it does smell like conformism. That’s what feeds a lot of division between most dull-minded people.

    To me, I may have to live in this world and deal with, but the world of my design is my sanctuary, though it’s often. Given my views on the afterlife, this world and the “reality” everyone tries to impose won’t mean much to me when I’m dead. That said, I must vouch for the value of externally representing that world in the form of a novel, game, or what have you. For that matter, I wonder what magick does for that.

    As a gamer, I would say that the world of video games can overlap a lot with the worlds of sci-fi, horror, and fantasy in general. It can vary depending on the game, but games are all about creating a space in which the player can engage with a world other than this one through play, even if there’s not a lot of story involved.

    I can’t help think reading this will make me tired of the notion of “serious art”, or artforms that reflect the real world too much. I don’t like any fantasy that’s too stupid or too brainless, but I do prefer fantasy to reality any day.

    • well said Aleph 🙂

      I think there is an overlap with magick certainly, and actually any kind of act of creative origination or participation (so on some level that comes into both art and science too). I think it is good to represent stuff in this world, express stuff here, and the relation between this world and the fantasy world is important (it’s pretty much “us” really). It’s also important dealing with this world, but fantasy can actually help or inspire you do that without losing yourself. It is a very interesting interrealtionship. I love those worlds of sci-fi, horror, the supernatural, and the fact that they are looked down on by “serious” art just makes them cooler for me 😉

      • it’s odd really, but it is a kind of snobbery, and I think in a way the put downs of art that has taken such a different course overlap the sneers at people whose engagement with the world is significantly different to accepted social etiquette. Sci-fi enthusiasts, before the internet, tended to get considered losers, nerds (before it was cool), creeps, and almost always seen as being male, but men without influence or status. Both they and the art forms were seen as beyond the bounds of “taste”. They, and it, were seen as easy targets of contempt. But the contempt said more about the critics than it did about their objects of contempt. The art world is also a business of course, a business not just of money, but of status. “Non-serious” art exemplified an enthusiasm for everything else

      • It’s funny because as you say, sci-fi used to be the domain of non-serious non-conformists. But look at it now. Now it’s a lot more mainstream, and that comes with its own problems. Now it’s more of a polished, or at least mainstream, product, and it often seems laughable.

      • political correctness and stuff, I don’t know the ins and outs, but you hear of controversies, and there was that whole gamergate thing which I only heard of third or fourth hand, and it all gets magnified by social media, and people pick “sides”, and people are calling foul and abuse, and claim they are harrased if they are criticized, and then there was that sci-fi award this year that had some controversy. It seems like people are starting to “demand” where the imagination should go, and in what manner, to encourage “social change”, and if they are resisted then people get labelled as all kinds of things. It seems to end up being politicized by activists intent on that. I instinctively don’t trust that, but I’m not involved myself

      • I heard about that Gamergate thing through Twitter. I don’t remember all of it, but I think it started with incident involving Anita Sarkeesian (a feminist media critic and founder of something called Feminist Frequency) and internet personality Jon Jafari (aka JonTron).

      • yeah, they claim endless amounts of harrasment and abuse, and yet anyone talking publicly pro-gamergate stands to get bomb threats, the lot, just as men’s rights meetings get cancelled at universities due to the militating of feminists, demands that they provide their own security, accusations that they are misogynists (even when they are women) etc. She’s the one who claims that everything (as in *everything*) is sexist, racist, etc, and you have to tackle *everything*. Unless it’s misandry of course – we can’t even recognize that. Naturally such people would want to politicize eveything, including your own private imagination. But that means controlling and censoring everything. These people are totalitarianism ground down to a finely dusted powder

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