The name Bergonia is not original with me. I purloined the name from the Superman television show of the 1950's.
I was probably 8 or 9. I was looking for a name for a country I was drawing, and saw a helpful Superman rerun on the big old black-and-white. I recalled it later this way: Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen went to a South American country called "Bergonia" to do a story on the evil dictator, San Marcos, who then for some reason had them arrested. Superman arrived just in time to burst through a stone wall and rescue Lois and Jimmy from a Bergonian firing squad.
I promptly swiped the name, and have clasped it to my bosom over the years ever since, bravely impervious to possible copyright liability. My anarchist/libertarian tendencies of course urge me to reject the commoditization of art, i.e. excessive protection of "intellectual property" from "theft." In fact, D.C. Comics itself originally cheated the Man of Steel's two creators out of their copyright. So I never felt too guilty about appropriating a name that thieves may have invented. Superman would surely understand. Indeed, I might have even uplifted the name-- my Bergonians would never have dreamed of shooting Lois and Jimmy. Well, maybe Jimmy.
But the Internet is a wonderful thing. Years later, I explored Superman-related websites and discovered that in Episode 65 ("King for a Day"), Jimmy Olsen impersonated Prince Gregory of Burgonia. San Marcos the evil general conspired to arrest and kill Prince Gregory. Superman arrived just in time to burst through a stone wall and rescue Lois and Jimmy from a Burgonian firing squad.
In 2003 a friend gave me a videotape of a bunch of Superman episodes, including "King for a Day." It was the first time I had seen the episode since that fateful day, and sure enough when Jimmy and Clark Kent arrive at the airport, they pass a sign that announces "Welcome to Burgonia." Most of the characters wore ridiculous costumes off the rack in the studio warehouse for "Old Central European Royalty & Nobility" typecasting. It was mildly amusing and totally stupid.
And the Superman writers likely stole that name from a 1920 silent movie series called The Screaming Shadow, where "the 'Black Seven' try to obtain the secret of eternal life and seize control of the world by usurping the throne of Prince Rupert of Burgonia."
Yes, Vurginia, there still is a Burgonia.
Personal Inspirations & Sources:
Phillip K. Dick,
English Empiricism & modern experimental science,
The International Workers of the World,
Ursula K. LeGuin,
Sen. Eugene McCarthy (D-Wisc.),
Sufism, e.g. Idries Shah,
Taoism & Lao Tzu,
You can be nostalgic for a place you've never seen -- Greta Garbo, Queen Christina (1933).
A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. Oscar Wilde
Why? Well, why not? I obviously love my creation for its own sake, and I've had a lot of fun with it over the years.
Play is life lived. Everything else we do is (should be) preparatory for play. I disagree with Freud, who saw repression of sexuality everywhere-- I think the tragedy is in the resolute adult repression of play. The most enjoyable sexuality, after all, is itself play.
There are so many kinds of play, and how each of us prefers to play is what makes us great individuals. The most fortunate of people successfully mix play with work. I live in West Virginia where deer-hunters abound-- men at play in the woods, men I know and respect (they eat what they kill). My artsy-fartsy friends are definitely kids with crayons. And many of my friends are content to play a couple rounds of golf. Bergonia is my favorite game to play, derived from my childhood love of maps, and of drawing maps.
I obviously have a distinctly political aim as well, since in every fiber of my thought & feeling I believe that our unfolding capitalist history is wrong, evil, stupid, certain to dehumanize humankind and likely to end up wrecking the planet, with catastrophic results of epochal proportions. The Internet is the great equalizer of soapboxes, and since every other kook has wired in, so have I. See attached manifesto. (what a nice quaint activist's word-- in Corporate-Duckspeak we just have "mission statements.")
Socialism & environmentalism supply only part of my purpose. In the beginning, I had no purpose at all, only the joy of playing and inventing. My first imaginary country came when I was in first grade, probably as soon as I grasped what a "country" was, and that there were others countries besides the one that God cast me into. I'm sure that the discovery of my parents' grand atlas was the immediate hook. Drawing the first maps and dreaming up weird names was entirely a matter of play. I drew lots of maps when I was a kid, and Bergonia was then just one of many on-going projects.
But as I got older, Bergonia stuck with me and evolved with me. I wrote my first short history of Bergonia when I was 13 or so. This website only contains about 15% of the materials I've written on Bergonia. The history of Bergonia I have on my shelf is book-length. I've also written some fiction with Bergonian characters. Over the years the work (play) of contriving a continent & nation has massively challenged me-- a great expenditure and demonstration of imagination that wound up serving a multitude of incidental uses. The job has given me a vehicle and a focus for all my interests in geography & meteorology, anthropology & history, religion & mythology, and philosophy & psychology.
To imagine a different way of thinking & living is to directly challenge one's own way of thinking & living. In order to invent a completely different culture, one has to figure out what traits are common to all men and women of all ages and cultures, and which are not. The latter traits, the mutable ones, become the inventor's playground. This process has made a healthy skeptic of me, especially skeptical of popular conceptions of morality and values, and it makes me consider the very important questions of the changeability and and perfectibility of human nature. The task has enervated, broadened, and humbled me. I am certainly not a citizen of Bergonia, but I feel like I have become a citizen of the world.
My private pathology is subtly invested and manifest in Bergonia as well, but all rather harmlessly I think. Every creator puts some of himself into his creation, inevitably, and the creation becomes a bit of a mirror, something of a child. (Perhaps this is true of the Creator himself, so that the world becomes God's mirror.) This is really nothing more profound than saying that our personalities project into the things we make in our lives.
An apology: Pardon the glitches with my web design, including malfunctioning links-- but this amateur is learning the web as he goes. I've even been told that I have a "googlewhack" on one of my pages. Also apologies for the substandard prooofreading.
Rev. 16 April 06
Would but some wing'ed Angel ere too late Arrest the yet unfolded Roll of Fate, And make the stern Recorder otherwise Enregister, or quite obliterate! Ah, Love! could you and I with Him conspire To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire, Would not we shatter it to bits--and then Re-mould it nearer to the Heart's Desire!
Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, §98, 99