We humans are a wonderful set of contradictions, don’t you think?
I would like to offer as an example my oldest son, Galen. When he was about three years old, he and I were watching Sesame Street together when he suddenly turned to me and said, “Real frogs can’t talk.”
We lived, at the time, in a rural area where encounters with wild life and livestock were common, and we ourselves had dogs and sheep. Galen had no trouble at all separating fact from fiction, life from television. I remember thinking at the time that he had an advantage over a lot of adults I could name.
On the other hand, Galen, like many three or four or five year olds, sometimes had problems with nightmares and worried about monsters in the closet or under his bed. No amount of rational explanations about non-existent monsters was going to help. So we made a game of it. We concocted magic anti-monster juice (tap water), put it in a spray bottle and put an anti-monster spell on it. When Galen complained of monsters which lay in wait in his closet, we would spray it with the anti-monster juice with drama and flourish, uttering the ancient incantation, “Out, out, damned Spot!” Galen always slept better afterward.
Don’t get me wrong. We never encouraged him to believe in magic or monsters or faeries or dragons or ghosts. He has grown up to be a healthily skeptical young man who smirks at ghost stories. Even so, he still enjoys a good story or sword and sorcery and talking frogs. He’s far more active in the Society for Creative Anachronism than I am.
I am not a psychologist or neurologist, so I don’t know the words, but I believe that our consciousness is dominated by different parts of our brains in the light of rational day and the dark of mystical night. And each state seems totally foreign to us when we are in the demesne of the other. And though a child may give more voice to their inner fears, adults are not immune. A good story teller is one who can transport the audience from one state to the other, sitting around the campfire, bidding the listener to abandon incredulity for just a moment in order to more fully appreciate the punch line. Strong relationships are built by sharing our irrational fears.
But come the dawn, it’s time again for the serious working and rational thinking. Time to harvest, time to build, while we look forward to the next episode.
Filed under: Culture, Television Tagged: | anti-magic, children, contradictions, fantasy, ghost stories, magic, monsters, nightmares, psychology, reality, SCA, skepticism, society for creative anachronism, talking frogs, Television