Have you ever wondered about the nature of fiction?
Reality is what we see with our eyes, hear with our ears, feel with our hands, taste with our mouth and smell with our nose. Fiction is the way we fool our senses into thinking we’re perceiving another reality, one that isn’t there, but one we want to temporarily inhabit. Fiction is our effort to create virtual realities without computers, using just the power of our minds, or the illusion of television/movie screens.
From amoebas to chimpanzees, we’re probably the only creature on Earth that spend so much time rejecting reality. Why? Have we evolve more brain power than we need to live, so we use the excess to imagine? Or is sitting around in trees eating grubs just not enough to keep our brains busy? We created civilization after civilization trying to find the right alternative to nature, but we’re never happy. We always want more.
Or did our addiction to fiction start with “Once upon a time” when were were so very little?
I have met people who lived their lives without fiction, but they were usually graduate students from Asian countries whose ambitions didn’t allow for them to waste time on books, movies, television, comics and video games. Busy people, especially those who go on to make billions, usually don’t waste time with fiction. Which makes me wonder if I hadn’t had my lifelong addiction to fiction if I would have been busier, more creative and productive? Or is it, if we don’t find exciting lives to live, we read about them instead?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not regretting my addiction. I am not trying to talk myself into going cold turkey. I am too far gone to ever contemplate giving up my addiction.
I want to understand the nature of fiction so I can seek more powerful fictional highs.
Most bookworms are beer drinkers and marijuana tokers, merely satisfied with using one genre their entire life. I’m not sure any mystery or science fiction novel ever gets beyond the buzz of beer or the high of grass – for the real opium and heroin level highs you have to move on to literary writers. And that’s so hilarious, because the most addictive fiction, the hardest of the hard stuff, are those books that get the closest to writing about reality.
Television and movies are more like crack highs that become all consuming. Which makes video games the crystal meth of fiction.
I like to rationalize that fiction represents the greatest form of communication. In real life we can listen to each other chatter on for minutes at a time at most, but when we read a book, some of those communiqués last for thirty or forty hours. How many people would listen to their friends if they talked as long as Tolstoy, Proust or even Stephen King? And is Anna Karenina or War and Peace escapism, or capsule summaries of 19th century life?
JWH – 11/18/13