The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet


Dan has a post up about fantasy and imagination. It’s a good read; go check it out and come back here.

I know exactly what he’s talking about. Frankly, if I’m sitting here in the middle of the night, and I’m reading a spooky book or playing a spooky game or possibly watching a spooky movie, well, I can get sort of worried about monsters or murderers or traps or aliens or what-have-you myself. When I get up to go to bed, I have to go through the library to get there, and there’s a big closet in there; it’s dark and spooky, and it’s a bit hard to avoid a few nervous glances toward it. I mean, sure, I know there are no headcrabs hiding in there waiting to jump on me and turn me into a shambling, moaning zombie, but in the right frame of mind, I do worry about it very faintly.

Since I’m capable of enjoying my fantasy moments and indulging in the imaginary, I reckon this makes me able to accept the world as it is. I don’t need to think the world is coming to a giant flaming end in order to get my dramatic kicks — I can instead pretend that it is, and then go pretend I’m saving the day with my jumping powers or futuristic portal gun or spear and magic helmet. But I’m surrounded by people who seem to have the short end of the imagination stick, and so can’t tell the difference between reality and their own fantasies. People who believe in acupuncture, chiropractic, magnet therapy, herbal remedies, and dousing. People who believe in UFOs, conspiracies, and flying Chinese monks. People who believe that the experiences they have when they’re altered by their personal illegal substance of choice are in fact more real than reality.

These people, as Dan implies, take politics very seriously, and hardly ever read about anything else. But they don’t just take it seriously, they take it personally — anything bad that happens to them isn’t just coincidence, it’s deliberate malice perpetrated upon them by villains. Villains who, as chance would have it, always seem to have been sent by whichever political party the victim believes to be the source of all evil in the world.

When I was in college, I was out walking at about three o’clock one morning, and when I came around the corner of the art building I saw something anomalous. Something I couldn’t explain. There on the wall across from me was a giant shadow — a humanoid shadow, but with a very tall head and inhumanly long fingers. The shadow appeared to be beckoning at me, and tracing it across the grass revealed that it terminated suddenly, with no apparent source. This, of course, was very abnormal, and I was quite concerned all of a sudden about invisible aliens attacking the campus — all I could think of was that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation with the invisible aliens that still cast shadows. Since I was low on ideas and a bit freaked out by all this, I went back to my room pretty quickly.

But I went back the next morning, and it was obvious what happened. The clue was at the beginning of the story, when I said it was the art building — what I had seen was an art project. A giant plastic "shadow" stretched across the lawn and up the side of the building. In the light of day it was obvious what it was, but in the dark, with only the distant streetlights for illumination, it was very convincing. I experienced the phenomenon Dan alludes to very strongly here — I knew there were no such things as invisible aliens (and I sure as hell knew that anything invisible wouldn’t cast a shadow), but I had sufficient imagination that, when faced with the suggestion of it, it frightened me. But my conviction that such a thing simply couldn’t be was enough that I was inspired to search for the real solution, and, sure enough, I found it.

I think I just implied that imagination is prerequisite for science. You know what? I agree with me.

April 16th, 2008 Posted by | Bullshit | no comments

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