Always a bit flamboyant in my titling, maybe. A little much. A little fantastic. Trip the light fantastic, ever heard that phrase? Yes? Unrelated, but it means to dance fancy free. It comes from an old John Milton poem L’Allegro, particularly this phrase

Com, and trip it as ye go,
On the light fantastick toe.

Let’s take a trip through fantasy. Maybe a light fantastic trip, maybe a kind of dance. Fantasy, fiction, tall tales, are they human tools for freedom? No I don’t mean escape, vent, crutch devices, I mean the raw material for making ourselves free in the real world. Like seeds of liberty? From fiction to freedom…

Let’s skip the light fandango…

Few things make me happier than referencing pop songs from the last 100 years. They are poetry and whimsy and a touch of fancy. “Skip the light fandango” is of course a kind of modernisation of trip the light fantastic—and is the first line of that ubiquitous song from the ’60s.

The BBC say it’s the most played song in public places in the UK in 75 years. So many people have covered this tune, but here’s my fav of A Whiter Shade of Pale (and the original below it for good measure) >

The lyrics read like a Lewis Carroll episode on the beach. It lacks the humour but still. But I was trying to say something about freedom.

Drinking and taking drugs and romance and extreme sports can be about escape. When we’re tired of the whole bandwagon and want to skip it. Heavy reality can weigh you down. Then a light fandango might help. Or a trip through literary flights of fancy.

An aside about Heavy Metal in Africa

Contrary to what you may read, hear, or ever be told, the heavier and more nihilistic flavours of rock are not popular in Africa. Take it from me, or not—but aside from a few young people trying to identify with their peers in the 1st world, there’s no love for that Metallica stuff.

I have a theory why.

I think in environments that have rung and strung order out of the wilds of nature are very convenient, very comforting, but sometimes stifling. Physical environments and psychological ones too. I’m thinking about Scandinavia where Metal is very popular. The chords discordant, the words nihilistic. “Let’s tear this building down and be natural again”.

I think this cant take root in Africa because, for the most part, there is no building to tear down. Yes, yes, we’ve got lots of concrete and steel and glass down here in the South, but it’s all external.

Psychologically we live in the wild. Look at our politics. Look at our enterprise. OK, so don’t look, at least glance at our transport and traffic. Mhmm. See what I mean? There is no stifling order, no structure and rule and law choking the spontaneity and creativity of the human spirit. And hence no need for a brief hiatus into the nihilistic fantasies of dark arts. (Even our occultic expression is different here. It’s more about order than about chaos.)

Yes, our music strains for more rhythm, more harmony, more order. “Let’s get out of this wild jungle and build ourselves a tower that reaches to heaven” that’s what African music says.

The fantastic point about fantasy

places

(By now it’s clear I hope, that by fantasy I mean everything from daydreaming, to music, to movies to all the stories we tell and the diverse ways we tell them.) Fantasy is all those art forms that take us out of our current reality and transport us into another place.

Transport in old English meant rupture, that kind of extreme ecstasy that takes you away. The main reason to read a book or watch a good movie, but I belabour the point.

The point is that fantasy takes us out of reality (even if just in our heads). Fantasy and reality are antonyms even. And these trips out of reality are functional. Like good holidays, they show you a different way you can be, and maybe change you a little. You come back different. AND, you come back ready to change some of the more stifling parts of your real environment.

Fantasies and stories give us…

…new thoughts we couldn’t have had without them. New thoughts give us new feelings and new feelings can carry with them tremendous energy. Not just motivation to change up things in our lives, but power to transform our environments.

That’s what the best fiction does.

“Fantasies and stories give us…” much more than Escape, they give us Exposure to the foreign, the exotic, the sublime. And that Exposure plants the seeds in us of a freer better-shaped tomorrow. In this reality.

(There’s a dark side to this too, but I wont ruin this post by talking about it)

Boa noite e boa sorte