Travels in Fantasy
Welcome to Bevan’s blog, if you plan to travel with me. We are here to explore the nature of fantasy, and what Tolkein called faërie, along with that tenuous edge between the fantastic and science fiction. Along the way we will likely look at the origin of stories, the power of the imagination, the art of creative writing, and why all these things endure. If you are interested please come aboard. I will be open to, and will acknowledge, all comments, questions and suggestions.
For now, please consider that little place we all live in. It is called ‘the mind’. Everything we know or believe, every memory we have, every sensation we receive, belongs here. It follows that the world we understand is a construct, much the same for most of us here and now, but substantially different if you lived in the palaeolithic age. There is no definitive ‘world’, still less ‘universe’, but multiple interpretations, and not merely by humans, but by every sentient being, wherever they may exist. And yet we communicate, we share our knowledge, humans more skilfully than any other creature we know of. Humans are big-brained, but so are ravens. It is our capacity to store and share knowledge, more than our cleverness, that sets us apart.
Please now imagine that the mind is like a bubble, in which all our beliefs, memories and experiences are contained, along with everything we could know, or imagine. This makes for a vast space, but it is not infinite. There is a border, which is partly determined by our language and partly by our senses. There is also a borderland, a pathless area without signposts or any kind of guidance, and sometimes we may stray here unwittingly, usually in moments of deep relaxation When we return to the normal world the chances are we will remember little or nothing of where we were or what happened. We may think of having had a ‘mystical’ or a ‘spiritual’ experience, or some deep insight about ourselves, or the nature of our world. The borderland is a fertile area, but to come back from it with real treasure in hand mostly requires a long period beforehand of patient, dedicated preparation. Pleasingly for me, there are now signs that the mystical is being taken seriously by at least some neuroscientists. See for example The Spiritual Brain, by Mario Beauregard and Denyse O’Leary.
Now I invite you to undertake a thought experiment. Imagine a friend invites you to come and stay in his large old house. As soon as you walk in the door you realise you know the house very well. You are familiar with every room, every passage, every picture on every wall. You tell your friend you must have lived here yourself. Your friend just laughs and says, “Impossible. It’s always belonged in my family.” You let it go. You are happy here, but soon it is time to leave. In fact you are about to leave when you notice a door opening off a shadowy hallway. It is a strange looking door, unlike any of the others. When you meet your friend with your bags you ask him (or her) about it. “You are mistaken. There is no door in that passage,” says your friend, laughing.
Now you have a choice: take your friend along to the place in question? It probably won’t be there anymore. You could just leave, but consumed nonetheless with curiousity. Perhaps you will go by yourself to that door that is not supposed to exist. This is the way I recommend. The door will exist for you and it will open easily. Go in without fear, or preconceptions. Up to you.
Contact me about anything I have written. All comments, suggestions for future posts on the topics outlined, or anything else, welcome.
We are here to explore the nature of fantasy, and what Tolkein called faërie, along with that tenuous edge between the fantastic and science fiction.