As children, fantasy filled our lives. Pretend games, stories of enchantment, blurred boundaries between the real and the imagined. Then we grew up. But did we give up fantasy too soon? Can fantasy play a role in our continued development as adults?
In ages past, all stories involved elements of fantasy. Even some of the most well-known writers, from Homer to Shakespeare to Edgar Allen Poe, invoked elements of the fantastical from witches to demons to monsters. It is only recently that ‘fantasy’ has been considered a separate genre of literature.
And often it is dismissed as ‘escapism’ or ‘stories for children’.
Yet as Kate Forsyth has written, “The very best fantasy enlightens as well as beguiles, passing on the accumulated wisdom of our ancestors, mapping the boundaries of behaviour, and challenging our preconceptions of what is right and true.”
In this episode, Clay and Sarah discuss:
* How we actually use fantasy all the time when we imagine future situations or replay past events in our minds
* Jung’s conception of the Active Imagination
* The deeper messages of fantastical stories like The Matrix, The Lord of the Rings etc. (Great audio on this topic from the On Being Podcast)
* How as adults we can use fantasy to heal our emotional wounds and to explore our minds
* What big life questions epic fantasies address
* Sarah and Clay’s take-aways in terms of actively using fantasy in our mental, psychological and spiritual development
It is deemed perfectly acceptable for children to embrace the realms of fantasy, and there are many who argue that fantasy prepares children and teenagers to deal with the harsh realities of the world, including tests of character, betrayal, friendship loyalty, rites of passage etc. Beth Webb’s article on ‘The Real Purpose of Fantasy’ talks about how fantasy bridges the gaps between knowledge-reality-experience for young people.
However, as adults we are taught to turn our nose up at things like enchantment, magic, archetypical figures and imagination. Our use of fantasy and imagination is carefully regulated, channeled into ‘acceptable’ spheres of leisure/escapism.
However, as Sharon Blackie has pointed out in her inspiring blog post ‘Why Enchantment Matters‘, we are narrative creatures. Stories including fantasy are an important way we connect with the world around us. Although in our modern age we seem to have become “disenchanted with this earth”, Blackie insists that “stories can enchant us all the way back to the earth”.
So perhaps we should recognise that fantasy plays a more important role than we admit.
Trevor Green wrote a great piece on ‘Why Fantasy is Important‘, highlighting the universal themes it addresses, such as the small conquering the mighty, or courage and faith winning in the end.
Perhaps we’re all like Frodo Baggins, inadvertently lost in a world of fantasy, unlikely heroes and heroines of our own journeys. And we need that hope that great fantasy brings — that despite great obstacles and arduous trials, we will succeed on our quest for the good life in the end.
So, what about you? Do you find yourself dismissing fantasy or embracing it? Have you ever used Jung’s techniques of Active Imagination? Let us know what you think and join in the conversation at our virtual Havana Cafe.