• John Diamond-Nigh


Roosting on a hardwood pew, fidgeting with a stick of Juicy Fruit gum before my sister could catch me out, the crucifixion was of less interest than a much more dramatic story farther down the page. All of the graves in Jerusalem open up and the dead arise in a sort of Halloween bonanza and walk around the streets of the city like old times, having the beer they’d been wanting for five hundred years. Zombies in the tens of thousands, I supposed. Just imagine!

Remarkably, the event is not confirmed by any other writer (and the Romans were assiduous chroniclers). Still the story remains, for many, unequivocally believed. But mom, really . . . .

I mentioned in an earlier column the #snake church in Madison County. If you’re dumb enough to handle lethal snakes as proof of your #god-chosenness, well, yeah, you’re f***ing dumb. That said, I did take the time to mention it: out of such lunatic #‘lore’ we weave the outlandish, #magical #mythologies of our lives. Zeus ravishes a swan. How many X’s should that get? But the #story persists.

When is #mythology truer than #fact? What artist or writer does not proudly carry a passport from Fantasyland? What country on earth is more prone to fantasy than America? By what mutations do #“fiction and fact” get so frequently conflated? Why are the deepest geologies of the mind so completely given over to the inscrutable runes of #fantasy? What separates #poetry from #superstition?

The poisonous side of fantasy is pretty self-evident. #Woody Guthrie’s #This Train is Bound for Glory enumerates all the cheats and charlatans who get thrown off a train that’s making its way to heaven. Now, by a delusional inversion, not unusual in politics, we find it’s them who are actually driving the train.

That has always been the big, fat risk of fantasy––lethal delusion gets to skip around in some ratty, preening yard sale fleece and be proclaimed a sheep.

In debate, Christopher #Hitchens often rebuked his religious opponent for layering #mystery onto a cake that has no need of such mystery to be either true or compelling. Good point. The glory of springtime hardly needs any imaginative embellishment. What does it add to a dogwood blossom to call it the fingertip of an angel?

#Earth’s illimitable beauty wedded to the mind’s equally #illimitable capacity for #wonderment (as Hitchens would say) are themselves enough ‘fantasy’ for one lifetime. Do I need astrology? Druidic rituals? Do I need more faith?

Still, I love #metaphor, which is a #species of #faith. Watching my wife sleep, I imagine the wrinkling hush of water in a Japanese garden. Only thus––#italicizing by analogy––can I hope to enfold her deep, floral, resplendent repose.

The term #make-believe would seem, on the face of it, more suited to the forced conversions in 15th-century Spain than to the innocent, fairy tale aptitude of the human imagination. In that very #duality are etched the (maybe insoluble) torments, riches and ambiguities that fantasy will always incur.

Jung helps, pointing out where so much bad fantasy begins––repression, trauma, fear of death. It’s a baroque list. #Reason, of course, can ride to our aid. (Jung deemed himself a scientist first.) As can the #sacred #courage of our own #imagination.

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