From early adolescence onward, I’ve been haunted, conflicted, attracted into near identity with yet simultaneously repulsed by the wizard archetype, particularly as embodied by “Raistlin Majere,” a character introduced to me through the fantasy novels of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s Dragonlance series. Raistlin has become synonymous in my imagination with the Lucifer character in Milton — though I encountered Raistlin first. I often hear myself wondering in a ponderous, psychoanalytic way, “Why did these books grasp hold of me? What was the nature of their appeal? What was it that I heard calling to me? How did these books reconstitute and reshape me? I found in them an entire cosmology, did I not? Was it my first, my original — or was there another, one prior? Did I ever reflect self-consciously about Christianity, accept it or choose it as my mythos, know myself to believe in it — or was it only ever a series of meaningless, inexplicable rituals imposed upon me by alien authority structures: family, church, community?” Part of me has come to view Weis and Hickman as corporate corruptors of the fantastic imagination. These were books that fed and perhaps irritated, worsened, fed and prolonged my sensitivity to the violence of being labelled a “nerd” by my classmates at school. That’s a powerful memory: one’s slightly larger male classmates narrowing their eyes, clenching their fists and snarling disgustedly, “Nerd!” I remember resolving to read the Bible in its entirety and getting distracted, setting it aside, reading Tolkein, Weis and Hickman’s Dragonlance and Darksword trilogies, Marvel superhero comics, horror novelists like Clive Barker and Stephen King. From their cover art onward, the Dragonlance books are all about a universe become filled with pubescent menace: men with swords, dragon-riding women. A world ensorcelled by hormones, symbol-systems, RPGs, and media. Readers are encouraged to see themselves in the Raistlin character: a figure of great intelligence trapped in a weak and sickly body, and for that reason contemptuous of others. That contempt is localized in the figure of Raistlin’s twin brother Caramon, the sibling who inherited the pair’s physical strength. Public school attempted to divide me from this through memorization of the alternative rituals of “science” and “mathematics” — but these had none of the same seductive powers, none of the erotic charge, the pleasure felt when under the spell of a fantasy.
Slow, given to loops and routines, I lay down on a couch, as in a therapist’s office, and allow Jesse Fleming and Electric Sound Bath’s Ataraxia Series #1: Heart and Insight Meditations, a tape released last year on Crash Symbols, guide me to a place of self-questioning.
“When did I start behaving like a jerk?” I wonder quietly, as if for the first time. “Ages 5-10?” Cousins, neighbors, video games. “Why was I sometimes cruel to others?” I was bullied. Just in minor, ordinary ways: small attacks, acts of aggression. But certainly with enough frequency to embitter me. To this day, for instance, I find it hard to forgive some kid who, before gym class one day, pegged me in the face with a basketball, unprovoked, without forewarning, breaking my glasses, blackening my eye. But forgive I must, I suppose, if I’m ever to forgive myself. Ages 10-15. Fears about measuring up, fitting what was expected of me because of body type, gender. Ages 15-20. “I was a nice person at times,” I blubber. Fleming’s words unearth points of pain, but he advises well. Under his direction, I allow myself to ask for forgiveness for the harms that I’ve caused, knowingly or unknowingly, through my thoughts, words, and deeds. Thus we advance toward the extinction of suffering.