Tantalizing Times in Contemporary American Society

Dauphin, Barry

This is based upon my book Tantalizing Times: Excitements, Disconnects, and Discontents in Contemporary American Society. Tantalizing Times refers to aspects of and experiences in our culture and of our people which encourage our wishes to live forever, to possess godlike powers and to be perpetually satisfied. And with near simultaneity to disappoint these desires, to present illusions, to make it appear as if we can achieve this, only to see it withdrawn or evaporate. These are the experiences of excitement-to-despair and back again, the tempo of our high-low cycles, our hyperboles in both directions, the almost grand before the pain of loss. The endurance of this could only take place in a society which has achieved marvels and envisions more.

This analysis uses a myth as a springboard from which to consider the allures and angst of modern America. Tantalus was a mythical earthly king. His father was Zeus, the king of the gods, who had great powers to appear anywhere, to smite his enemies, to possess whatever he desired, to exist indefinitely. His mother was the Titaness Pluto whose name means “wealth.” Tantalus had much, if not all, that any mortal at that time could want. Despite his favorable position and being very well off, he commits various crimes and is punished. The punishment(s) involve various forms of tantalization, or feeling tortured by having desired objects just out of reach.

The book addresses the psychology of tantalization and explores the variety of allures contained in the American experience. These excitements began with our founding and extend to our bodies, minds, technological developments, economy, entertainment, etc. With the excitements of America comes the promise, if not the actualization, of possessing all that we see.