I've always been an avid reader, and am reasonably familiar with the English language. There aren't many adjectives with which I'm not on a first name basis, so it was with some consternation that I read the following sentence in a review in "Art in America" last November:
"To make her small-scale collages on paper, Meg Hitchcock slices up diverse source texts ranging from the Old Testament to Darwin and glues the individual letters into mandala-like compositions, to near phantasmagorical effect."
Say whaat?? Now, art critics can write some pretty impenetrable stuff, but yo homey, you can't just invent words to describe my work. Why not supercalifrajilistical? Well, turns out that it really is a word. "A bizarre combination of constantly changing optical effects"? Jeez. Makes me wonder if the critic didn't like my work. Or maybe she was referring the Urban Dictionary definition: "Completely and utterly awesome to the point that if you were any more awesome you would internally combust."
Imagine my shock, then, to find the same obtuse word used in the recent "New Yorker" to describe Muammar Qaddafi. Check it out:
"Last month, Muammar Qaddafi, who combines a phantasmagorical sense of reality with an unbounded capacity for terror, appeared on television to say that the rebels were nothing more than Al Qaeda extremists..."
Call me a nutter, but I believe these things fall into alignment for a reason. Jung calls it synchronicity. When events parallel each other or occur simultaneously, he says you need to pay attention because something important is coming down the pike. Okay, so what'm I to make of this phantasmic alignment? Am I to sharpen my cooking knives and head for Libya? I'd undoubtedly be better armed than most of the rebels already there. Are Muammar and I destined for holy matrimony? I'm not so sure that his other wives will be agreeable with having to accommodate a middle-aged artist who cuts up Korans for fun. Or maybe Qaddafi is to be a future collector of my art? Hey, I could sure use a wealthy patron, and just because the guy is evil incarnate doesn't mean that he doesn't have a taste for the phantasmagoric.
Keep in mind that I've only come across this word twice in my life. Coincidence? Karma? Or just plain krap? The thing about coincidence is that it's often mislabeled due to lack of information. Like, today as I was waiting in line at my bank, I noticed, as I do every time I'm there, that all the tellers were wearing green. A dullard might consider this to be an astonishing coincidence. I, being alert and ever the cynic, am comfortable in assuming that green is the required attire, and furthermore that the average teller tires of it quickly. I'd even go so far as to guess that it was the brainchild of some dolt in mid-management who thought that we, the worthy but less educated customers, would be more inclined to deposit our cash in an institution so steeped in green that their employees voluntarily clad themselves in it each morning. I also note that there are green lollipops on the counter, a subtle reminder that poverty sucks. I suspect that if mid-management had their way, the tellers would be required to suck them while providing us with excellent service, but the prohibitive cost of dental insurance intervened and thus sucking is optional. But anyway, surely you'll agree that in this situation, it wasn't coincidence that governed the choice of attire.
There are those occasions, however, when coincidence is a dubious explanation for parallel events. Like, if I started wearing green shirts and sucking green lollies, and within 24 hours I won the state lottery, I would be willing to embrace the possibility that greater forces are at work in the universe, and that God in all His mysteriousness had chosen to bestow prosperity upon all believers through the unlikely agent of the TD Bank marketing team. I may be a cynic, but I can be as open-minded as the next guy as long as there's plenty of cash involved.
But back to me and Muammar. There's a good chance that all this was pure coincidence, and that we're not destined to meet up in the future. I'm actually fine with that. He's not really my type, and he sorta creeps me out, in a phantasmagoricalistic-ass kind of way. But I'm concerned for him, because it looks like he's going to be out of a job real soon, and I'm afraid that with his advanced years and limited set of skills, he might have trouble finding another job. I think I'll drop him an application for TD Bank, as they're kind to seniors, and it's the least I can do for someone so darn phantasmarrific.
Above: There's my guy, wearin' the green. He's got the right idea, but maybe I'll suggest that he tone it down a little when he goes for his job interview. And try to smile, for gadsake.