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  • John Diamond-Nigh

#Magic good, magic bad, magic #diabolical


What happens to the #jesters when the #king himself is ten times more obscene?


What happens to the #subversive role of the #artist when #democracy itself is being overturned; when #religion hugs the devil himself as a means to keep its kingdom secure?


Have we #humanists (momentarily) been beaten at our own game? Our pants are down. Our swords have been stolen. Our old, misty, exploratory lexicon–#contamination, #pluralism, #relativism–has been co-opted in the most poisonous and literal ways by the very folks who, not so long ago, when I was in school, pointed at that lexicon as unequivocal proof of my depravity.


The implications for #art are enormous. I’ve used this big word before–#archetype. I tried, as I recall, to explain it a little, so I won’t define it now. But good or bad, it’s a deep, irrational, imponderable force, a force that often arises when things have been #suppressed, when persons or classes have been humiliated. Art has always been sympathetically brilliant at anticipating and picturing that force. Look at #Chagall–those floating Russian peasants; those cows in the sky.


Indeed, the #magician is one of America’s most cherished archetypes. We watch the magician. Of course we know it’s all tricks, but we want to believe in the magic, to the point where we voluntarily suspend our judgement. Is it, we tempt ourselves to wonder, even satanic? We avert our eyes. We look again.


Along with the magician go a host of #carnival figures–the #charlatan, the #wizard, the #preacher, the #hawker of potions. Stepping into this hayfield tent we forget for an hour the difficulties of life, the gritting pall of anxiety; change can happen with the pass of a wand or a pentecostal utterance that, in the blink of an eye, washes your fears and sin away. What powers! And nowhere on earth do they hold more appeal than here in America. Drive through Appalachia: there are more churches than telephone poles.


Where does that leave us, mild #disruptors of the arts-and-letters kind, when an archetype like this is aroused to such diabolical proportions–the magician, the squawking, pot-clanging, cacophonous #Pan? What can we possibly do with a mere stylus or paintbrush when the king himself is rolling around the world like a vast, erratic tumbleweed of razor wire?


I don’t know.


For Carl #Jung, the magic of art, the “magic of the mind,” is in fact the long lesson of a life; the slow improvement implicit in humanism; not the charlatan bravura of a moment. Jung’s book of paintings, as metaphysical as anything William #Blake ever painted, or William Butler #Yeats ever wrote, illustrates that notion. Like Yeats and Blake, Jung took years to construct a hallucinatory #mythology suited to his particular (and very sane) existence. Magic was not a cheap trick: it was immensely difficult, disciplined and life-long. (I’m the first to say: hats off to religion when it abjures the blatant heresies of the moment and in fact helps us in that task.) As James #Hillman, a deep believer in the #catharsis of culture, observed: don’t always use the easiest, sentimental palliative, the trick, the fishing lure of greatness, the magic pill. Magic is a long #ascent. Seldom a fireworks conversion.


Art has the long maturity to remind us of that.

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