Sunday, 9 May 2010

Chiaroscuro, Dali and some frivolous papillons…

I started out imagining reality and fantasy to be some kind of linear trajectory, where we traversed from reality into fantasy and back again; maybe palmate, branching out but always returning to a central core in order to preserve our integrity. After all, there’s evidence aplenty of those who fantasise and don’t return. One or two have been found with oranges in orifices and who wants to be remembered like that? Laurence Sterne describes the narrative of what we know about ourselves as a wiggly line, so a narrative for life then may be a synoptic process with our forays into fantasy enriching and developing our thoughts as we travel along in life but always anchored, rooted in what’s important: family, friends, people. But a journey nevertheless.

More recently trying to describe to a very dear friend how things were going (in response to a question that sprang from kindness but wanted reassurance) I said I felt I was hovering on the surface of life trying to keep it all together. That notion of hovering (feels more like hoovering sometimes!) took hold: skating on the surface, gliding, sliding but not breaking through the surface tension of life to the depths below, not really feeling because that would be dangerous. Is that what it is then, to be an adult; to lose our emotions? Over-investment in the superego - because the id’s gonna take us to places we can’t go right now - the ego too perilous to trust - may not provide enough stability. And certainly not enough balance.

Fantasy then takes a hierarchical place way below in the depths where we want to go but can’t afford to in case we don’t climb back out. Placing it below in that hierarchy implies it is inferior and I don’t believe it is. For a very long time, I’ve been trying to reconcile the attractions of Enlightenment and Romanticism which could easily fit such a structure, be it vertical or horizontal: height / depth, left / right or, more sensibly, co-existing in a mutually beneficial relationship. Acch, this needs scholarship. There was a woman centuries ago who knew the perils and benefits of both and if I’d been a smarter, braver person, I’d have found a better way of expressing the double dialectic but it’s been done by others so that’s alright.

So how do we reclaim fantasy when it becomes elusive? Well there’s music, poetry, wine, food, friends and love… Here’s Baudelaire’s La Musique having a similar problem between spleen and ideal:

On the abyss

Rock me. At times dead calm, a vast reflection there

Of my despair!

So when a beautiful butterfly embroidered silk kimono comes along - that slips and slides, billows and floats - well, the id takes over and despair is banished. There’s only one piece of music that could possibly do justice to this silky piece of fantasy and that’s Puccini’s coro a bocca chiusa from Madame Butterfly, which is the first opera I ever saw live and is currently entering the public’s consciousness as the Asda supermarket music. Ah well, at least more people get to enjoy it…

No comments:

Post a comment