11 November 2019


Patrick Curry. Enchantment - Wonder in Modern Life.  Floris Books 2019.

As Patrick Curry argues eloquently in his thoughtful examination of the human condition in these challenging modern times, "enchantment is an experience of wonder". This is no mere academic exercise, although he is surprisingly erudite in his choice of texts, writers and cultural icons to illustrate his thoughts on this vital feature of being fully human. Nor is this a fluffy 'New Age' extended essay on how much better this world would be if we were all nice to each other.
Much of the material is philosophical or poetic in nature, drawn from inspirational writers such as J.R.R. Tolkien, Max Weber, and W.H. Auden. Although mainly positive in tone, Curry does not hold back from stating things as they are. He is passionately scathing in denunciation of elements in the present world that seek to enslave the human race as little more than robots.

Almost anything can enchant, given the right circumstances, but experience shows that "some contexts for enchantment are more common than others". Times spent with good friends, special meals, falling in love, or being moved to tingles by a piece of music are examples how almost all of us can rise above mundane existence and feel really alive. Variations include awe, amazement and astonishment. Often these moments provide treasured memories for the rest of our lives, maybe tinged with a trace of sadness or poignancy. They may be hard to define yet what they have in common are their ephemerality. Nothing lasts forever. So, if we can't expect to remain forever in enchantment, how can we fill our lives with more wonder?

All things considered, it is a matter of being open to life and open to others too. One may experience wonder alone, but even then there would be an urge to share it with another. Life has more meaning when we share. The trouble with that thought, as we all seem to find, is that often we have periods when life feels meaningless. In his introduction, Curry admits to having had a fear, bordering on terror, that enchantment is lacking from life. Writing this book was his way of addressing this fear without necessarily analysing it away: "What matters is to work with what you're given, and give something back." -- Kevin Murphy.

No comments: