Fiction and the Abuse of Being
The idea of said story being that kids can’t handle non-fiction, that reading non-fiction in some way requires knowledge or context or understanding of issues, and that fiction, for whatever reason (and I have my suspicions) is more accessible and easy to understand, but that, in so doing, we get a negative feedback loop, where kids don’t understand the world, so they are given fiction, which then makes them understand the world even less, and understand fiction even more, to the point where the kids’ maps and schemas for interpreting the world are hopeless fiction-based, leading such kids’ to not even have the capacity to wonder how the real world is different from the culture-machine-narratives churned out by melodramatic-happy-ending-Hollywood-dreamers-who-still-believe-that-God-is-Pooh-Bear.
See, e.g., Baudrillard, hyperreality, the Matrix, map-territory fallacies generally, Plato’s Cave, etc.
One of Plato’s main complaints against the poets was this artifice, that if the way we live now is already watching shadow’s in a cave, artificial narrative then is shadows of shadows, and when art is based not on real life but on art itself, we have shadows of shadows of shadows, and eventually we’re just shuffling around in the dark, bumping into each other.
Someone said — an American Southerner I think, of the Old Early 20th, or possibly the late 19th –that they would have rather have one true experience than spend their days writing masterpieces.
Of course, a few quotes on writing goes the other way — Anais Nin saying “We write to taste life twice” or Tennessee Williams:
“My work is emotionally autobiographical. It has no relationship to the actual events of my life, but it reflects the emotional currents of my life. I try to work every day because you have no refuge but writing. When you’re going through a period of unhappiness, a broken love affair, the death of someone you love, or some other disorder in your life, then you have no refuge but writing.
Or William Saroyan:
The most solid advice . . . for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.
Which gets to it, I think, and brings us back around to non-fiction, and a reply to Plato, which references Nietzsche’s view of Apollo in the Birth of Tragedy, namely that artificial structure, like a shadow-box constructed to view a solar eclipse, may be an integral part of the proper understanding of Deep Ontology, the Laughing Like Hell, the Good And Angry, the Living, and this final quote, from H. Thoreau:
If you can speak what you will never hear, if you can write what you will never read, you have done rare things.
Or a Styron quote about living many lives —
Of course, the danger of fiction, and the vicarious experiencing of other lives, is that we come dangerously close to Nozick’s Experience Machine. Action creates character, and to be a dreamer, and dream of an end to action, is an end to action, and an end to character, and a death in life. And though we all must act minimally to sustain the biology of our life (in DFW’s words, the map of our territory), by choosing to be a certain kind of dreamer, we go through the active portion of our life as though a sleep-walker — automatic motions, conditioned responses, learned from television, machine and slave-servants feeding the Soma so the mind can dream —
To live, to truly live, then, we have two choices, both requiring action, both requiring risk, and danger: We must wake up, either into our life, or into the dream. The possibility of Lucid Dreaming remains, the possibility of acting in a world that does not yet exist — but lucidity is difficult, more difficult than merely living. The subcreation of dreaming must be extended into the world, like Mother Atlas delivering the world kicking and screaming into the new place you glimpsed while sleeping.
The lesser path is merely to live, to be lucid in this world, as it is.
(of course it is no wonder so many of us fear lucidity; after my uncle died, I retreated from the reality that stripped the flesh from his bones, caused his body to eat itself alive, until the talking skeleton-body that contained him expired under the bright lights of a hospital womb, even as he was annihilated by a storm of pain and doctor-administered narcotics. Have I returned to that reality? Sometimes, in the arms of women, or after obliterating my forebrain and liberating my hindbrain through the actions of the good old Delta-9 (plant’s self-defense mechanism), listening to some song, or in the shower, when the constant attack of water droplets keeps me in a state of heightened awareness. Other times, when the struggle is painful enough, I retreat, to books, video games, stories, where someone else has made the hard choices and laid out the path, where all I need do is follow–)
Storytellers. Living. Dying. We all must do it for ourselves.