Saturday, January 23, 2010

True Life is Stranger than Fiction

I recently posted as my status on Facebook that I thought true life was stranger than fiction.  I was surprised by the response I got.  There was one English major/writer that had quite a bone to pick with that thinking.  I stand by my statement.  Below is a partial response to my friend..

How do you tell the difference between a lie and the truth?

That's a very complex question, but there are always bread crumb trails to follow to decipher the 'truthiness' of a statement as Stephen Colbert puts it.  I'll break it down into the classic communication majors matrix:

Sender: does the person have the classic signs of lying--looks up and to the left, blinking alot, repeat your question to stall answering,  motivated to lie blah, blah, you know that stuff.

Message: is the message consistent, plausible, simple, overly detailed, under detailed, easily retold the same, corroborated,  has a beginning, middle and end, conflict, resolution, involves relationships, intimacy, etc.

Receiver: is it too tailored to the audience to be entertaining, creative, insightful, quotidian, etc.

The bottom line is that even the best fiction is predictable in the way that it's unpredictable.  Truly strange fiction would be random, erratic, lacking flow, resolution and any of the meta narrative and structure that we seek.

If that weren't enough fiction has one major limiting factor--it's human made.  It's got our finger prints all over it.

It makes me think of aliens in movies.

They have the same basic body set up we do: tetrapodal, thorax, abdomen, head, hands, 2 eyes on head, mouth in front, nose, ears.  Even our most creative aliens are really just comical reshapings of ourself.  We think we're being creative making them green, but we're not.  It just ends up looking less like an alien and more like what a human would think an alien would look like.  It's the same with fiction.  The more creative we try to be the more we're really betraying the fact that it's the mental product of a highly intelligent ape.

Reality's different, though.

Shit just happens.  :)

No creator.  No divine mind that's guiding evolution.  No particular reason that gravity has to pull.  No reason for electrons to spin around protons.  No reason light is a wave and a particle.  No reason that black matter adds weight to the universe or that black energy is hurtling the galaxies apart.  No reason life had to happen, complex life had to happen, multicellular life, sexually reproducing life, chordates, jawed fish, lung fish, tetrapods, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, monkeys, apes, hominids, Homo sapiens had to happen.  There are an infinite amount of other possibilities that could have quite easily not resulted in you or anything like you.

But it did.

From whence did we come?  To where do we head?

No body knows and if anyone tells you otherwise it isn't too hard to tell they're lying.

Why?  Because true life is f***ed up strange.

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