Saturday, 9 April 2016

Life's Fictions



There is always a discrepancy between what we believe intellectually, as a formulated opinion, and what we believe in our flesh. To the latter, the intellect turns a blind eye. There is a story of a famous rationalist philosopher who had a horse shoe on his front door for luck. "Surely you don't believe in that nonsense" a colleague said. ""Of course not, " he replied, "but apparently it still works even if you don't believe in it". This is how we are. My dead father, for example.. Sometimes his presence here is very strong. He sits on the sofa, silent. He never used to say much and he doesn't now. It's a beautiful tender silence. Of course, as a formulated opinion I do not believe in the afterlife, but I am happy he is there on the sofa. And when I visited the bungalow after his death I sat on the bench near the porch. I was careful to sit on the left, for he always sat on the right. And if by mistake I did sit on the right I’d say ‘sorry dad’ and move over. Even now, if someone forced me to sit on the right I wouldn't be comfortable. If you’d asked me ‘do you believe your father is beside you on the bench’ I would say ‘of course not’. Some would say that this is because intuition, the body, the senses, know more than the intellect. But I think there are necessary fictions, wilful fictions that rest on nothing, and these fictions are not things to be discarded in order to get to the scientific core. They are what give value to our existence, these fictions, they are where we really live. And to embrace them, to live them as fictions that are written on air, is to understand what it is to be human. We are creatures of fiction. We have only to decide, not between fiction and reality, but only which fictions allow us to flourish and which  hold us captive

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