Friday, October 27, 2006

Three Paragraphs on Fantasy and Imagination

Imagination not Fantasy

When I speak of Imagination, I do not mean fantasy, nor do I mean fantasy as in the literary genre – fantasy literature is only a product of our creative imagination and not of fantasy. Imagination, by nature, is something necessary for a healthy mind. It helps to produce something outside our self – like a poem, or a prayer. Where as Fantasy turns the individual inward, to the ego: it is delusion and foolery to the self. Sayers says in "Mind of the Maker" that the imagination works outward steadily increasing the gap between the visioned and the actual … Few writers of crime-stories become murderers – if any do, it is not a result of identifying themselves with the murderous” (pg 144 Mind of the Maker). With fantasy, she says it is “bluring the boundary between the visioned and the actual … so that the child who has fantasized himself a murderer ends by becoming a Loeb or a Leopold” (pg 143-4 Mind of the Maker). Sayers is saying that an individual cannot live in the imagination; however, an individual may spend a life time living a fantasy and not know it because their fantasy has become real. And has been played out to the last and only possible end: insanity. So imagination is the product of the sane mind and fantasy is the product of the insane mind.

One might ask “how do we know whether we are playing with imagination or living fantasy?” Simply put, when we are using our imagination we know when we are using it, and if we are not readily conscience of our using it then it becomes apparent after we have stopped imagining (day dreaming). With fantasy, it is the opposite. The one living in fantasy does not know he is living a fantasy and usually does something drastic to prove that his fantasy is the state of the world. Tolkein did not think himself to be Frodo, but David Koresh thought himself to be Christ. Koresh did not mearly imagine himself to be Christ come again, he really thought and believed himself to be Christ in his fantasy. Koresh had no option but to love his fantasy to its end result: insanity (Christ-complex) and suicide.

In a word, imagination is life giving or at least life aiding. Fantasy is self-destructive, self-absorbed, and a self-delusion. One might speculate the poet to be more right about God than the theologian or the philosopher, for the poet is not limited by his mind in order to figure things out. As Chesterton puts it, “Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason [fantasy] seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite … The Poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician [fantasizer] who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits” (Orthodoxy).

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