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Reply To: The Antlered Child,” with Mythologist Joanna Gardner, Ph.D.”


    Wonderful story, Dennis, right on the beam of Joanna’s wonderful evocation of the archetypal background of such an image.

    The show really plays with an interesting juxtaposition, as far as I’ve gotten, completely unexplained between a certain apocalyptic breakdown of the human world and this “response” from Nature, as it were, seeking to reintegrate the human back into its animal soul; the hybrids seem to be a kind of response by Nature to the human crisis—very much in keeping with the operation of a kind of ‘transcendent function’ creating a third “synthesis” between the human and the natural.

    But as far as it relates to a possible counter-movement to magical thinking, I am not too sure that Netflix would be the place where this counter-movement could happen. It’s like trying to be anti-facebook by logging in and using it to disseminate truth, etc… This is a kind of contradictio in adjecto. For in the realm of entertainment, just as in art, the medium is the message.

    I would like to ‘deconstruct’ a little the dichotomy between “magical thinking” and “truth-telling” given what we know about the nature of truth: that truth has the structure of a myth. Art is the only place where magical thinking belongs and remains the medium of wish fantasies and their fulfillment. On the page, where the artist writes, it also creates a world, exactly as a form of “magical thinking.”

    It is of course the travesty of our self-help industry that it pushes the standard ideological belief that you can take the logic of myth and apply it literally to the real world.  There lies the perversity we are talking about which is better named the delusion of “positive thinking” rather than “magical”, as positive thinking today also likes to use all kinds of pseudo-scientific garbles and misappropriations to clothe its spiritual and logical bleakness.

    The book to read in this connection, one I highly recommend over others, is Barbara Ehrenreich’s BRIGHTSIDED: HOW POSITIVE THINKING IS UNDERMINING AMERICA where she tells the story from a very personal angle, as  cancer survivor, of how she became inundated with the fierce propagandistic waves of the positivistic creed—with less than “positive” results for her mental health and intellectual integrity. I was so delighted to discover Barbara and her take on positivism that I even wrote a short blog about it if you want to check out some passages.

    And there is no doubt that that we are today inundated with this ideology, whose historic trajectory Barbara traces to a kind of compensatory reaction of the 19th century to the austere Calvinism of the founding pilgrims, the intense spiritual pessimism with which this country got started.