Friday, November 8, 2013

Willful Suspension

Think 1817…Samuel Taylor Coleridge… Kublah Khan… romantic poets addicted to opium.Ok, don’t have to go that far.  But, one idea Mr. Coleridge had, that has stuck with us (when I say ‘us’ I refer only to myself and the guy in the mirror, isn't that right, my precious?) is the ‘willing suspension of disbelief.’

Here’s the full quote from that Coleridgerian best-seller, Biographica literaria or biographical sketches of my literary life and opinions: (Available at Amazon!!!)

"In this idea originated the plan of the 'Lyrical Ballads'; in which it was agreed, that my endeavours should be directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic, yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith."

Looking at the quote with as little context as possible, because I live in a post-modern world, Coleridge is saying he wrote some poems involving pretend subjects and, that in order to appreciate the poems, the reader has to get over the fact that such pretend subjects don’t exist.IOW – the reader has to willingly suspend their disbelief in order to get down with the ballads.
In order to appreciate the news and what the government says, a person has to willingly suspend their intelligence and lie-detectors; but I digress.
Like say, I write a book about three-legged goblins.Those stuck in literal gear and who cannot shift into pretend will not enjoy said book because three-legged goblins aren’t real.There might even be a segment of society that will read only about the two-legged variety because they are not willing to imagine the three-legged kind.

BUT - writers bank on the fact that a good deal of the genre-reading population will pretend there are three-legged goblins and will buy that book just so they can read about them.  I know a woman who doesn’t like goblins or superheroes or giant robots battling alien sea creatures because they aren’t real.  At the same time she consumes sensitive-bare-chested-stranger-man romance novels at about the same rate she fills the gas-tank on her Prius.  Would that she saw the irony.

Albert Einstein, who was seriously not addicted to opium, said this:
“Imagination is more important than knowledge.  For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”  That…that right there.  Thank you, Einstein, for the clarity.
If it’s good enough for Coleridge and Einstein, it’s good enough for the guy in the mirror.  Creativity is limited only by imagination.  Nor, let us open our scopes, is this limited to the artistes.  Consider that surgery and insurance sales and computer programming and, heck, just about any job out there, uses a good dose of imagination in order to make things better.

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