Uses of enchantment

I have Bruno Bettelheim’s book Uses of Enchantment, somewhere. Yet I’m less interested in Freudian readings of myth and fairy tales than other types of interpretation. But that’s not the point of this.

I was reading how selling is the art of story telling, (in a Medium piece here) but earlier I’d been looking for a digital trace of Tom Midnight’s Garden (the BBC1 1989 version). Something had brought it to mind and thus, I’d spent hours trying to remember the title. A clip of the intro sequence is the only thing on YouTube available of the series.

Regardless, I still have the memory of my enchantment watching this series. For whatever reason this wonderment lodged in my mind, like the chimes of the story’s grandfather clock in the night. Then I found this (90s?) website and more details returned. Thus, I realised that there maybe all kinds of uses of enchantment, but there are things it refuses to do.

Enchantment resists dissection. Therefore, I don’t want to study this program. I want the enchantment back. Tom’s Midnight Garden was a moment in time when I felt what the story was without having to work out why it was simple, perfect and complete in itself as a narrative. It conveyed enchantment and didn’t mock or judge it. I see too now how the story refused to rely on outside explanations. It was about how time really was no longer for Hatty and Tom. The narrative’s satisfying resolution enabled these two characters to reconcile their experiences without compromising the purity of them, or otherwise reduce what they experienced to its essential elements. This helped convey/induce the wonderment in me. While I could further sum up that which contributed to this wonderment, I don’t want to. It’s not a recipe. There is no guarantee of repeatability.  Enchantment is not soup.

Time no longer

Furthermore, enchantment does not possess elements. Enchantment is like purported techni-quarks, indivisible particles fundamental to existence, yet next to impossible to find or study, and little understood.

And now, in my thinking I have stumbled on what enchantment might be for. It is something a person undergoes and it feels like you change because of it, but perhaps it is the experience that enables you to be as you are. Enchanted me was caught up in the magic of a story and I was not thinking about me, nor anything else. Indeed, as with this story, there was no time, and yet I was me. Perhaps more me than usual, in fact. Again, perhaps I don’t want this wonder back as much as I need this version of me restored. Backed up from some Akashic record or some such.

On reflection, my interest in ancient objects, old books, and in anything that survives immense amounts of time, is related to how they induce a kind of temporal vertigo. This feeling is almost enchantment, but is too self aware.

I suspect enchantment avoids those who search for it. I’m not suggesting sentience, but the feeling is fleeting and elusive. I can’t pin it down by visiting a museum. I can’t re/create it, but humans can create the circumstances to experience it. Over thousands of years people identified sacred locations, and plonked down sacred buildings as receptacles and focal points  for this experience.

Perhaps, some may suggest, reading the novel of Tom’s Midnight Garden could create the right conditions. It won’t, not for me, because I’m not in the condition for it. Thus, although I have the book, I’m holding out.  Reading will only distance me from my faded memory of breathless wonder. Reading too, will engage my critical thinking and that is an anathema to this experience.

So, I come back to the art of selling, and  I am sold on storytelling, or certain narratives as means to induce/reveal/access (?) enchantment. Enchantment, or perhaps the story (because the story can be mistaken for the experience) will be out there when I am ready. Or, it is fundamental to me as quarks to atoms, to be revealed and experienced when my tools and timing align. This might be when I’m least expecting it, a bit like Tom at his relative’s flat. But the readiness is all. All I know is that I once upon a time, as in any fairy tale, I happened on enchantment. May chance grant me the grace to stumble across it again.

And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer…

Like the grandfather clock says, it will probably be when time is no longer.

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