"You never stop questioning who you are and therefore how you would empathize or step into someone else's shoes. So it can be a relentless work of knowing yourself, getting out of your own way, knowing your flaws, knowing your weaknesses, knowing your strengths, and it's so much self-reflection. [The characters you play] definitely expand your worldview -- if you're smart…and it can unmoor you, slightly, because you find it easier, perhaps, to imagine what someone else would do than what you might do."
Entries in fiction (50)
There is no past; there are just versions of the past. Proving one version true settles absolutely nothing, because proving another is equally possible. If I were to rewrite the scene one more time, this new version would overwrite the previous ones and, in time, become just another version among many.
Words radiate something that is more luminous, more credible and more durable than real facts, because under their stewardship, it is not truth we’re after; what we want instead is something that was always there but that we weren’t seeing and are only now, with the genius of retrospection, finally seeing as it should have occurred and might as well have occurred and, better yet, is still likely to occur. In writing, the difference between the no more and the not yet is totally negligible.
We can have many pasts, just as we can have several identities at the same time, or be in two places in our mind without actually being in either. For every life we live, there are at least eight others we’ve gotten close to but may never know. Maybe there is no true life or false life, no remembered or imagined itinerary, no projected or revisited moments, no worthy or wasted days, just as there is no such thing as mask or face, truth or lie, right or wrong answers. Can something be and not be at the same time?
I think [these are hard times], but also they've probably always been, in the sense that we aren't really born very well equipped [for] the struggles that we're gonna go through. We're kind of born with this idea that we're permanent and we're central and we're enduring and we're the most interesting person in the room, and then, especially in times like these.
When I was growing up, the sort of things was that capitalism was in a battle with socialism and communism and anarchy was sort of the crazy uncle over there on the side. And now, in our time, I think capitalism has just won. There's no question. It's just overwhelming victory for capitalism.
But I think we're in an interesting time, in that maybe capitalism is trying to decide which capitalism it's going to be. And it seems to me that just in my lifetime, it's kind of been decided that the form of capitalism we're going to embrace is the one that says, "If you got it, you deserve it. No guilt. Don't worry about it. And anybody who doesn't like that is whining."
Whereas, the one I like is sort of a Emersonian-Whitmanesque form which says, "There's no point in any of this—democracy and capitalism—if we're not simply making more citizens—making brighter citizens, making the lives of the least among us better.
So I think it's some kind of weird diffuse way, fiction can remind us that even those people are on a continuum with us and that remembering that actually enobles us.
- Saunders, G. (2013). Tenth of December: Stories. New York: Random House. [excerpt]
- "George Saunders Has Written the Best Book You’ll Read This Year," by Joel Lovell, The New York Times Magazine [cover story], Jan. 3, 2013
Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.
~ Philip K. Dick
What I find fascinating in that famous quotation of Dick is that the basic idea is that reality is not something that manifests itself clearly, it's something that doesn't want to go away.
What's the meaning of this? The meaning is that we have a map, a mental map of reality in our head.
And sometimes we superimpose the map that we have in our head, the image of reality that we have in our head, that can be wrong sometimes.
We superimpose it on reality so sometimes we don't really access reality directly. We have our desires, fears, expectations, paranoias, whatever, that act like a sort of filter between [actual] reality -- creating a sort of virtual reality.
That happens for everybody. Well, in a media-saturated society like ours, this is even stronger. We know a match not because we have been there and seen that, we know a lot because we have seen it on TV, on the Internet on some website, or read it in the Wikipedia, and, well, when things do not fit our mental map, mental image, maybe we have touched reality.
That's, I think, what an interpretation can be of that famous statement by Dick.
See also: Rossi, U. (2011). The twisted worlds of Philip K. Dick: A reading of twenty ontologically uncertain novels. Jefferson, N.C: McFarland. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/692291452
"This entire book is filtered through the consciousness of [the] main character. I don't want to give too much away here, but hopefully, as one reads through it, that becomes clearer and clearer. It might seem as if it's being told from a separate narrator, but it's supposed to be coming through her consciousness in a way. And a lot of what is possibly seen here as being real or experienced is partly her imagings of what other people are going through. Which is fundamentally how we all live our lives anyway.
We all imagine things about people, what their lives are like. And we operate as if these imaginings and ideas are real, but they're not. They're fundamentally fiction. Even the things we know about the people we care about most or we live with — stories they tell us about their childhood. We think we understand them, but those images and those stories, they're not true necessarily. They might have moments, pieces and facts and things, but what's in our brains — they're constructs."