Sunday’s Wisdom #159: Humans Need Fantasy

“You’re saying humans need fantasy to make life bearable?”

No. Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.”

“With Tooth Fairies, Hogfathers…”

“Yes. As practice, you have to start out learning to believe the little lies.”

“So we can believe the big ones?”

“Yes. Justice, mercy, duty, that sort of thing.”

“They’re not the same at all!”

“You think so? Then take the universe and grind it down to the finest powder, and sieve it through the finest sieve, and then show me one atom of justice, one molecule of mercy. And yet… you try to act as if there is some ideal order in the world, as if there is some… some rightness in the universe by which it may be judged.”

“But people have got to believe that, or what’s the point?”

“You need to believe in things that aren’t true. How else can they become?”

– Susan & Death, The Hogfather

This scene, coming towards the end of the two-part miniseries based on Terry Pratchett’s novel, may be the main reason why I like this story so much. Death is explaining the significance of what’s happened to his granddaughter, just why it is so important for humans to have things like fantasy, believing in things which modern academia, and our cynical society, dismiss as unimportant. I can’t really explain it any better than they do, but there is one thing I disagree with them on.

I do believe that there are such things as justice, mercy, duty, fairness, and all those other wonderful things. Don’t get me wrong, I am well aware that these principles do not dominate our world, or our natures, but they do exist. Part of how I get through each day, where I know terrible things are happening, is because of my faith that things will work out in the end, however long that may take. We just need to do our part, in our own little corner of the world, a little bit every day.

But for other people, I understand that they do not have my exact perspective. I understand that not everyone sees the same thing as me, but I am heartened by the stories we tell. Stories are the shared light which humanity itself creates, illuminating truth and circumstance which are otherwise obscured. Sometimes we just need to take a step back from our lives in order to find our way and move forward.

We are not meant to be placid, purely-rational creatures, but to have passions as well. We feel, and so we can understand one another and ourselves through what we are able to feel together. We create beautiful things, things which inspire, things which grow almost like living creatures.

A world without fantasy, without passion and beauty, would be barren indeed. Everything we strive for, the ideals which drive us forward, would be gone. We would be little more than animals, like rats trapped in a lifeless maze without escape. Without these things, we would never know what true living is, or what humanity is.

That is why I love stories, and why I contribute to the conversation in my own humble way. 🙂

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