Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Imaginary Friends

When we were very young, we had friends who were toys, whom we assigned lives to, and who were what we now call imaginary friends. And supposedly, as adults we are supposed to grow out of such imaginings. But that is not it at all.

You see, the imaginary is the most powerful form of cognition. Whether it is a formal (in several senses) construct like a memory palace, used to recall a myriad facts, or a stuffed bear with a too-small red shirt and now become a cultural icon, we use the hologram images of our imagination to store an abundance of our lives.

Here's the thing. Even if (as Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris assert) our cognition of self and the world is merely an emergent illusion stemming from chemical complexity, all that illusory richness retains structure better if the basis of illusion is more complex. It is like having a back-story that is never published, but forms the basis for a fantasy realm.

And so, Christopher Robin and Pooh, Calvin and Hobbes, and a host of other half-real and half-imagined friends, here's to you! May you never fade except as the tired old illusion of life fades, and may you greet us as we pass from illusory existence to illusory ending.

My previous cat was a smokey darkness with white socks. He waited on the roof, with only the shadow of his pricking ears to show his presence. Then you opened the door, and that would galvanise him into some frantic process of descent which would end with him in the house at your feet, hoping for a rub-and-scratch. He is gone now, buried in a little plot to the side of the house. But I, the illusory resident in this illusory realm, still look up seeking pointy ears some evenings. That illusion of memory, of life other than my own, it makes me seem more real even though Dennett and Harris might very well be right.

Who's to know? These days, marmalade sun-cat looks upon me with curious green eyes, miaows softly, comes for his morning head-rub. Over the years, I have come to associate intelligence and warmth with that cat. It is no doubt an illusion. But it gives me an illusory warmth far greater than the chilly sad confusion of Sam Harris's Free Will, in which he asserts that he had none when he wrote the book and I had none, reading it.

And so again, here's to imaginary friends, even those we have the luxurious illusion of thinking are real. Here's to the friends of my childhood: Darwin, Tesla, Newton, and the powerful ghosts who once lived within an imaginary five-mile radius of my imaginary birthplace in that great imaginary, the Isle of Ely. Cheers, and a solemn sherry to you all.

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Blogger soloblast said...

*Sorosi likes this post*

That's why we have storytellers, isn't it? ;-)

~Sorosi Wayfarer

Sunday, November 03, 2013 4:30:00 pm  

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