12.9.18 - "The Farther Away It Seems"
Dear Sweet Babe,
Today I want to talk about fiction.
Fiction is traditionally seen as literature that discusses or presents non-factual topics, but it can also be anything that is non-factual or unreal. While the Harry Potter books and the Star Wars movies and other stories of their ilk are more commonly considered fiction, so also can our insistence that blue is the saddest color, or our perception of another’s innocence, or, even, our understanding of our own worth. But today I want to talk to you about a very important couple of fictions and how they can influence us.
So, more specifically, I want to talk about the past and the future.
The future is a fiction, in that it is never real. We can plan for the future, and dream of the future, but by the time we actually get along to the future, by the time the future becomes factual, it also ceases to be future and is present. Much like the horizon, or the day when I am credit card debt free, the closer we approach the future, the farther away it seems.
The past is also a fiction, but a much different type of fiction.
Now, you may be thinking, “Hey, wait a minute! The past isn’t a fiction! It really happened; I remember.”
And you’d be wrong.
While the past, of course, is a series of events that actually did occur, we can never fully recreate the past. Whether it be subconsciously or intentionally, whenever we attempt to recreate or recall the past we will always end up with a story that is slightly skewed and inauthentic. In the words of photographer and writer, Sally Mann, “if you want to keep a memory pristine, you must not call upon it…for each time it is revisited, you alter it irrevocably…the exercise of our memory does not bring us closer to the past but draws us farther away.” So, though the past was factual at one point (when it was the present), our pasts become fictional the moment they cease to be present, because we cannot accurately recreate these events.
Now, some like to paint themselves in their pasts in a better light, or aggrandize their intentions, turning their simple history into a dynamic struggle against good and evil (guess which side most will put themselves on). Some look upon their past as a minefield of avoided explosions, or mistakes that blew up in their face, turning every bad feeling or slip up into a lesson that “you better not make again, or else!” Others will romanticize their past fiction by only remembering the goodness they’ve experienced, remembering their past with rose-colored glasses that filter out any negativity. While this mindset does help one to see the world with a more kind and optimistic view, it can also learn to a lack of learning, to an even dangerous drug: nostalgia.
Nostalgia is a longing for the past. It is the fondness we feel when we think of a time before our present woes or hurdles. And, while reminiscing on the greatness of the past is all well and good, in the words of Albus Dumbledore, “it does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” Whether we view our past with hyper-fondness, preferring to dwell on it in happiness, or we view our past with hyper-criticism, preferring to dwell on it in regret, we are missing the point of life; to live.
It is important to find the happy balance between our fictions. Whether it be the myths or literature that we love, the stories of an imaginary protagonist or our own storied past, these fictions can only tell us partial truths and give us momentary enjoyments. We must not forget what the purpose of memory and stories: they only have use if their inspiration is used.
So, sweet babe, what inspiration will you find from your favorite stories?