Imagination

24 Nov 2007

So, I was out jogging last night and for some reason began to think about all of the books and films that center around some secret magical world just beyond the reach of most of us (but discovered, often by accident, by the protagonists of those films or books). And then I compared/contrasted that thought with Galt's Gulch in Atlas Shrugged.

It's an interesting juxtaposition. In almost all other literature and film, the "other" place is one of fantasy, magical reality, and mysticism. In Neverland, for example, one can fly. In Terabithia -- or, say, Narnia -- one can be a monarch. In Harry Potter, one might even be a wizard!

But, what happens in Galt's Gulch? There, the "other" universe is the complete, direct opposite; a rare home for pure earthly rationality. One arrives there by air, of course -- but not via some spell or magic carpet; rather, via an ordinary, quite tangible, airplane with an internal combustion engine. And there's nothing imaginary there at all (save, I'll admit, Galt's motor -- although this is not, arguably, presented as some sort of magical power source; rather as a hypothetical technological advancement).

Looked at this way, what might Rand's suggestion be? How about this: That the "real world" we're living in right now is indeed already an irrational fantasy, where the norm is to often enthusiastically and unquestioningly leap into the ginormous collective. Religion is a good thing, right? Socialism and communism are basically good, noble ideals, right? Sacrifice is always honorable, right? This "reality" we think we know is merely a corporeal phenomenon being experienced by our eternal souls, right?

It's also interesting (IMHO) to note that many of those films and books I discussed are designed to develop religious faith, a concept that amounts to believing something without seeing proof of it. Yet, the characters in these books -- at least within the universe of the books themselves -- are given first-hand experience with (proof of) these alternate universes. So, the message kids are given is: See, these wondrous places are real after all! No one seems to question the blatant irony there.

Of course, I don't mean to downplay the worlds of C.S. Lewis, J.M Barrie, J.K. Rowling or anyone else with two initials and then a surname. I've enjoyed those imaginative worlds as much as any kid. I guess I just think it's somewhat ironic how closely these imaginary places tend to resemble the actual world.

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