Fantasy & The Buffered Self

  • 1 Replies
  • 1391 Views

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

sciborg2

  • *
  • Old Name
  • *****
  • Contrarian Wanker
  • Posts: 772
  • "Trickster Makes This World"
    • View Profile
« on: October 16, 2014, 01:36:19 am »
Fantasy & The Buffered Self

Quote
As Taylor makes clear, the shift from a porous to a buffered self involves a complex series of exchanges. But to put that shift in simple terms, a person accepts a buffered condition as a means of being protected from the demonic or otherwise ominous forces that in pre-modern times generated a quavering network of terrors. To be a pre-modern person, in Taylor’s account, is to be constantly in danger of being invaded or overcome by demons or fairies or nameless terrors of the dark — of being possessed and transformed, or spirited away and never returned to home and family. Keith Thomas’s magisterial Religion and the Decline of Magic (1971) specifies many of these dangers, along with the whole panoply of prayers, rites, amulets, potions, chants, spells, and the like, by which a person might seek protection from the otherwise irresistible. It is easy, then, to imagine why a person — or a whole culture — might, if it could, exchange this model of a self with highly permeable boundaries for one in which the self feels better protected, defended — impermeable, or nearly so.

The problem with this apparently straightforward transaction is that the porous self is open to the divine as well as to the demonic, while the buffered self is closed to both alike. Those who must guard against capture by fairies are necessarily and by the same token receptive to mystical experiences. The “showings” manifested to Julian of Norwich depend upon exceptional sensitivity, which is to say porosity — vulnerability to incursions of the supernatural. The portals of the self cannot be closed on one side only. But the achievement of a safely buffered personhood — closed off from both the divine and the demonic — is soon enough accompanied by a deeply felt change in the very cosmos. As C. S. Lewis notes in The Discarded Image (1964), the medieval person who found himself “looking up at a world lighted, warmed, and resonant with music” gives way to the modern person who perceives only emptiness and silence. Safety is purchased at the high price of isolation, as we see as early as Pascal, who famously wrote of the night sky, “Le silence éternel de ces espaces infinis m’effraie” (“The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me”).

In these circumstances, one might expect people to ask whether so difficult and costly an exchange is in fact necessary. Might it not be possible to experience the benefits, while avoiding the costs, of both the porous and the buffered self? I want to argue here that it is precisely this desire that accounts for the rise to cultural prominence, in late modernity, of the artistic genre of fantasy. Fantasy — in books, films, television shows, and indeed in all imaginable media — is an instrument by which the late modern self strives to avail itself of the unpredictable excitements of the porous self while retaining its protective buffers. Fantasy, in most of its recent forms, may best be understood as a technologically enabled, and therefore safe, simulacrum of the pre-modern porous self.
Health Resources:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/12NfnxYU5ZSur-RahRNI-bNMnTjxE12vyGWmY46Xq2h0/edit

Register family with 911 services. Also mental health info & hotlines, articles, treatment assistance options, prescription assistance, legal aid, etc.

reichorn

  • *
  • The Afflicted Few
  • Suthenti
  • *****
  • Posts: 28
    • View Profile
« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2014, 05:50:15 am »
I think Taylor's The Secular Age is amazing.  I can't say I've read the whole thing (it's a door-stopper), nor am I inclined toward Taylor's *conclusions*.  But I love how he sets up *problems*, the sorts of questions he asks.  It's worth reading -- the beginning and end, anyway.