Amidst this crazy Covid world that we’re all still a part of, there was one other news story that achieved particular prominence over the last few weeks. Of course, the event I’m referring to is the death of HRH Prince Philip.
Now there’s an awful lot I could say about the amount of news media this took up in a world where so many people are still dying from Covid, and so much other stuff is going on. But I think I’ll leave some of the big time political and sociological implications out of this for now. Maybe I’ll come back to it some other time.
Of course, anybody’s death is sad, and I’m sorry for those who were near and dear to the prince. But beyond that, I couldn’t help viewing the outpouring of grief from across society with something akin to bemusement. Why did the passing of somebody most of us never really knew, and who lived a life well beyond the means of virtually anybody else on the planet, matter so much?
And then it struck me. This is all about something I like to think I know quite a bit about. This is all about fantasy.
It’s one of these things I reckon the human race is really great at. When we look at all our achievements – the great societies and the magnificent buildings and the wondrous works of art – this is the one that stands above all else. Our species is amazingly proficient at creating fantasies.
Because, let’s face it, the whole idea of royalty is a massive fantasy. We’ve taken this bunch of people who really don’t seem to be anything special and we’ve ascribed this kind of aura, this special significance to them. Do the comings and goings of the royal family actually make a difference to us as we go about our daily lives? Well, not really, but we’ve managed to convince ourselves that they do. How else to explain the outsized outpouring of grief for this one person, when every day we have virtually zero concern for the thousands of other people we never knew who have also died.
Of course, the royal family is only just one of the numerous fantasies we construct around our lives. There are so many other ways we make use of our imagination to make meaning out of the world we live in. Money is a big one. When you think about it, the whole financial system only exists because we’ve created this fantasy about these notes and coins being worth something. And when you consider the myriad of ways people identify themselves, based on how they look and what they believe, you can see that there’s more than a little fantasy involved.
As a writer, I have to say this has its benefits. The fantasy of literature is one of the greatest tributes to our imagination. So I’ll go away now, to create a little more fantasy. Some of it will end up on the page, but the rest of it will be just the way I live my life.
Posted by Jonathan Gould and tagged as