TRANSFORMER | Sites of enchantment

Sites of enchantment


It is easy, within the daily flow of events, duties, and commitments, to become oblivious to the many moments of enchantment that are available to us. This isn’t to say that our lives are entirely devoid of enchantment; just as our ‘work’ time is characterized by delineated necessity, our ‘play’ time can be equally as plotted. We are offered a variety of conventional sites of enchantment, from the surround-sound wonder of the cinema, through to the poetic poignancy of the sunset; society points us towards these experiences, and we become accustomed to their value as sites of enchantment.

Yet the potential for enchantment resides within the humblest of things, something we are often reminded of through the sensitivity of the photographer, the painter, or the poet. Things we touch and experience every day; a door-handle, an elevator, an escalator, a lobby, a busy street, a darkened room, an empty building, a handshake, a hug; our own beating hearts. If we wish, we can find small wonder in most places. It needn’t be show stopping, or life changing. But this world – it’s smell, its feel beneath our fingers – is here for us, if we want it.

Children often revel in this ability to appreciate small wonder, blissfully ignorant to the various disillusionments of maturity, that promise to dull their senses. Laing comments, “As adults, we have forgotten most of our childhood, not only its contents but its flavour; as men of the world, we hardly know of the existence of the inner world: we barely even remember our dreams, and make little sense of them when we do; as for our bodies, we retain just sufficient proprioceptive sensations to coordinate our movements and to ensure the minimal requirements for biosocial survival - to register fatigue, signals for food, sex, defaecation, sleep; beyond that, little or nothing.”3

In adapting to society we become mindless to the many potentialities for enchantment – we have “tricked ourselves out of our minds, that is to say, out of our own personal world of experience, out of that unique meaning with which potentially we may endow the external world …”4 It is perhaps because the scale of experience that is available to us is so frightening and seemingly unmanageable that we choose to delimit it through various categorizations and assumptions.

“Just as mindlessness is the rigid reliance on old categories, mindfulness means the continual creation of new ones. Categorizing and recategorizing, labeling and relabeling as one masters the world are processes natural to children. They are adaptive and inevitable part of surviving in this world. Freud recognized the importance of creation and mastery in childhood:

Should we not look for the first traces of imaginative activity as early in childhood? The child's best-loved and most intense occupation is with his play or games. Might we not say that every child at play behaves like a creative writer, in that he creates a world of his own, or rather, re-arranges the things of the world in a new way which pleases him?

The child's serious re-creation can become the adult's playful recreation.”5

As children we are adept at creating our own worlds, an ability – and an idea – that many of us eventually relinquish in adulthood. Yet the benefits of re-creation should now be clear; we are able to create new sites of enchantment, to see things differently and, perhaps, to appreciate being alive more.