Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Great Escape

I think the saddest thing about this noxious and pathetic display is how far the fantasy is from the reality. Why do such deviancies attract such a pathetic lot of flabby, pastey, podgies? (The delicate-of-constitution among our readers may want to decline the link.)

I was having a discussion the other day with my long-time blogging buddy Steve about the attractions of fantasy. Fantasy, in various manifestations, has become the mainstay of our culture. People are drawn into its sticky entanglement and seem to prefer to stay there. It doesn't seem to matter what particular way your fantasy world manifests itself, as long as it keeps you well-insulated from reality.

We were discussing this in the context of the Trad fantasy world, wherein the Catholic confessional state is somehow going to be magically restored, schools will start teaching kids Latin again, the Vatican will renounce VII and women will go back to wearing long skirts and bonnets.

Steve writes that he knew someone in childhood who was a big Tolkien fan:
"The kid had an imagination. He learned those elvish runes from the back of the book and he would write on his wall calendar with them, making little notes to himself about what he was going to do...It was cute, the kid who spent half his life in a fantasy world of his own creation...

"But you see, he was a kid. The [Trads], they have families. Bishops Fellay and Williamson, they have flocks...

"These people all live in fantasy worlds, where brave-sounding words and misplaced bravado are supposed to mean they are part of something special. And here's the pope - this wonderful, blessed, pope - trying to welcome them back in and even making it easier for them to get there. And they're throwing temper tantrums and composing love ballads to idiocy and grabbing hold of their sword hilts and trying to find some way, any way, not to be forced to grow up and get on with it."

"That's bad for us. Isn't it?"

One day I came across a little group of people living in the States who call themselves the "Plain Catholics" (who have a blog, naturally). They were Catholics who had taken a look at the Amish and decided this was a good thing. A comforting fantasy scenario in which to live full time. The women dress in Amish style clothes and wear those charming little caps, they build their own barns...But they're Catholics, see. So it is way better than being Amish. Right?

Now, I'm sure these people are very nice and kindly... hang on, disclaimers like this always sound false and trite don't they? I'm not sure of anything of the sort. Frankly, they sound like loons. They sound to me like people who just cracked under the Fantasy World temptation.

I've seen a lot of it, especially in the Catholic world where we feel completely ringed around by an unimaginably hostile and horrifying Real World. There are lots of fantasists, Catholic Enclavists, who want to go off, and who have gone off, into the woods to create a happy and comforting little Catholic world, well insulated from Outside. The kids are homeschooled, the women commonly wear the trademark shapeless plaid jumper/white t-shirt and sneakers combo, the men work at home, the books on the shelves are all from Ignatius or Angelus press, the jokes are clean and not very funny, conversation is always holy, the horrors of the squelching, seething pornographic world Outside are clucked at primly and the introduction of ironic humour is a wild and somewhat scandalous sensation.

Sound familiar?

But I think this sort of thing is just a different manifestation of the same impulse as our podgy leather-clad friends in the link. It's just another form of the same denial and rejection of The Real. I remember well the hippie world on the Left Coast. The people in it, all of whom indulge regularly in some form of video game/sci-fi fanaticism/historical re-enactment group narcotic in addition to living in Vancouver, all regarded their self-created world to be superior to the one occupied by the rest of the world. Feminism, pro-liferism, political activism and right up to involvement in occult and esoteric or quasi-religious/psychological [New Age] practises are all in this category. Make anything into a replacement for The Real and you've fallen into fantasism.

What are its characteristics? A close-knit group of people, a rejection of the "world outside the group", adherence to special distinguishing behaviors, dress, diets, activities that set your group apart from, and usually in opposition to, the World Outside. Not many go as far as the "transsexuals" and actually have significant bits of themselves sliced off and bind themselves to a lifetime of body-altering chemicals, but loads of them like to dress up and "live the dream", and talk about "going full time". The goal, however you go about it, is to enclose yourself into another, more congenial world.

I am old enough to remember when all this started. It wasn't the 60s. In the 60s, people were just experimenting, seeing what they could get away with. It was the 70s and up that it really took hold. The concept of the "lifestyle choice" was born then, and grew into its current state of permanent adolescence in the 80s.

I replied to Steve:
Yes. It's bad. How bad?

My mum got into the fantasy world and lived in it all the time I lived with her. It was a hippie fantasy world, but it was the same prison, just a different cell block.

[After leaving home so early ], as the time has gone by, and I've slowly managed to shake off the remnants of my mother's make-believe world, I've come to realise that it was not just a survival thing to leave home, but it was the thing that saved my soul too. Divorced from reality, means divorced from grace.

I've seen lots of forms of it. Sci fi nerds, computer geeks, lots of Tolkein nerds, SCA people, even people who are fanatical fans of television shows. Even people in the pro-life movement have created a little bubble universe around them, which I hear happens a lot in 'Movements" and "Causes". Political parties do it too.

I think it's a product of The Collapse. We don't hold together any more as a society. People don't belong to anything, not even their families. They certainly don't belong to their countries (Britain has been horribly deracinated, and no one in this country knows why). The world has become so radically horrible, and there are so few natural ways of creating cohesiveness, it's natural we should try to build enclaves.

Yes. It's bad, but I think I understand it.

But yes, it's really bad.

It's why it is so very difficult to make people become Catholics. I got a note from a recent convert once who asked me what to make of the disaster that he saw in the Church. He wanted to know if he ought to go along with what was going on in his parish, out of obedience or something. I told him that above all, the pursuit of the Catholic life, holiness, is the dedication to The Real to the exclusion of anything false. Falsehood, self-deception, hiding from The Real, is hiding from God. And if you persist, I've learned from first hand experience that it is possible to hide from Him in a self-created fantasy prison right up to the moment of death.


Anonymous said...


You're brilliant.

Carry on. Smile. And pray like hell..


Mark S. Abeln said...

Now we see the fruits of all that talk about 'community' in the Mass of Paul VI. Hasn't a big objection always been that it focuses on the worship community and not on God?

Yeah community is important. But what kind of community?

Ricky Martin said...

You wrote:

"I think this sort of thing is just a different manifestation of the same impulse as our podgy leather-clad friends in the link..."

I can't believe you are equating a parade of transssexual perverts with what you call "Catholic Enclavists." That is extreme. It is also inaccurate. The latter at least have a concept of human nature that very closely approaches "the Real" as you say. They are also trying to be faithful to the Gospel in a world that allows no room for serious religion.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure if the disagreement I perceive between myself and Miss White on this issue is a matter of misunderstanding or disagreement: I composed a lengthy response to this post earlier, then deleted it thinking my interpretation may have been wrong.

Is the argument that Catholics who should simply accept that the world believes and does things that are repugnant, and go along without a fight? That even if we don't personally approve of everything other people do, we should make sure we don't look strange, act strange, or seem to want to change things? If so, than I disagree: living in an enclave, dressing differently than the modern norm, praying for the return of a Catholic confessional state, etc., may not be normal, but certainly don't constitute living in a fantasy world. Those things are just as real as anything else: the enclavist doesn't forget the modern world, but rather sees it as flawed and in need of prayer. Perhaps getting out of it is all he can do to spare himself and his family from the problems it causes.

However, I believe I may be misunderstanding, or perhaps Miss White's post and my understanding are somehow not connecting. From previous posts I have read on this blog, I highly doubt that this is intended as an argument for passive acceptance of the modern world. If I have misunderstood, than I would suggest that a stronger differentiation be made between truly fleeing from reality (and God) and innocently fighting for justice and truth in the ways that are available to us.

After all, I have often heard things like contraception and abortion promoted on the reasoning that "this is what works in the real world." I would hate to see Catholics buying in to that kind of pacifism, the sort that says that the deeply troubled world we inhabit is all that really exists, and we just need to conform ourselves to it.

Anonymous said...

If you have a Catholic number of children you pretty much live in an enclave anyway cause it's not like you can ever leave the house. - Karen

Anonymous said...

I think the Early Christians were in an enclave though. The Catacombs?

Anonymous said...

Not to mention monasticism.