I killed piggy. I dropped the boulder on him. At first, it seemed to be nearly a cartoonish attempt not at homicide, but silencing a socially awkward human. But then there was blood. So much blood. Years later, I killed him again. I did it in a high school English class. I wrote pages and pages about it, because his death wasn’t a simple one: he was annoying as hell, but he made sense. He said the things that none of us wanted to hear. It turns out that cognitive dissonance looks like a bespectacled, chubby little English kid armed with a conch shell. I’ve killed him twice more since then. He’s dead enough for now, but I would imagine that I’ll do it again someday. I wonder if I’ll feel any different about it when I’m older. I hope I’m less feral next time I encounter Piggy.
I’ve floated down the Mississippi River with Jim and Huckleberry Finn nearly a dozen times. I’ve explored Boo Radley’s yard with Jem. I too, lost my pants in the process, which, if you know me, isn’t that out of the ordinary. It just happens sometimes. Don’t judge.
I’ve considered Dolores Umbridge to be the epitome of awful, pink corruption for several years. I hated her face when she turned out to be one of the benevolent fairies in the live-action adaption of Sleeping Beauty that turned out to be much freakier than I expected it to be. I can’t help but think that as Jack Sparrow is to Johnny Depp, so is Maleficent to Angelina Jolie. In other words, look out world.
I despise books and movies that claim to be based on a true story. Primarily because I hate both the Hallmark Channel and most Christian films. The tagline, Based on a True Story is an attempt to boost a story’s credibility. It’s as if the writers, producers or whoever else is involved in the “creative” process want readers to believe that they too could experience the goodness (or suffering?) inflicted upon the protagonist. A tactic heavily relied on by the prosperity gospel. It’s also an explicit confession of a lack of faith in story, fiction and narrative.
We have to ask,
Are history and biography truer than fantasy or fiction?
Do the hard sciences and the lives of politicians, military leaders and even artists and authors have more to say to us then say, George Orwell’s 1984, or Rand’s Atlas Shrugged?* We could ask this same question another way. Can we interpret our own experiences accurately?
Let’s address the second question first: We can decipher the day’s events. With the help of a counselor, our friends and some measure of truth that exists outside of ourselves. That begs the question then, “Do we actually attempt to figure this stuff out?” I’d argue No for a majority of humanity. I could be wrong, but I’d be surprised by that.
It seems to be a little backward to believe that humanity could gain more from stories like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe than Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Lincoln, Killing Kennedy or Killing Jesus (Who’s next, Billy? Clearly, your ghost writer is on the brink of genuine homicide…) But frankly, I think we do. What do a fictional lion and a bunch of bratty kids have to tell us that a Fox News anchor can’t communicate?
Fiction can embody truth in ways that are easier for human imaginations and intellects to comprehend. Reality carries so many biases, misrepresentations and we don’t get the omniscient narrator as much as we’d like. I say that for Christians, who actually believe that we have access to that perspective. Even we though, must admit that we hear imperfectly. What does this mean? That sometimes, we encounter a fiction that is truer than reality. This isn’t always true, but it definitely happens. If you want an example, read The Great Divorce, East of Eden, The Old Man and the Sea or even Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
The fact that something didn’t happen
doesn’t make it any less true.
*Please forgive the use of dystopian literature, but I love it. So much. And I think it’s (largely) too true. Perhaps there’s a post on that on the way.