Shoes and Ships and Sealing-wax
It’s going to be one of those days when there’s more to comment on than time to comment in. ‘More offences at my beck than I have thoughts to put them in, imagination to give them shape, or time to act them in.’ There’s a very interesting piece by Stanley Fish in the Chronicle of Higher Ed that I want to say something about; there’s a quite fascinating comment at Crooked Timber that I’m going to say something about, come what may; there’s the rest of that rumination on wishful thinking I wrote yesterday that I want to add; there are other odds and ends; and there’s also another interesting discussion at Crooked Timber which I ought to point out. It discusses the religious arguments and disagreements we’ve been discussing here lately. It made me laugh a good deal in a startled sort of way when I first clicked on CT, but then I wasn’t expecting it. Plus I’m easily amused.
One of the odds and ends I mentioned was the discussion at What Happens When You Tell a Lie. Marijo thinks the tone of my post on wishful thinking was contemptuous and trivializing, so I thought I would clarify. It wasn’t. What I said was in fact dead serious. I really do wish I could just wish away pain and death and sorrow. Of course I do! But I can’t. I’m well aware that fantasy can be highly consoling, and in many forms I think that’s perfectly harmless and indeed beneficial. How many lonely children have been comforted by their imaginary friends? Probably billions. In one way you could think of the deity as an imaginary friend. But that gets more dangerous, because the fantasy starts getting confused with reality, and that confusion is socially encouraged and even sometimes mandated. And then things can go badly wrong. But that is not at all to say that I have no use for fantasy. I spent my entire childhood in a fog of the stuff, and I’m firmly convinced that was a fine thing.
I wrote a column for TPM Online about some of these issues recently. I offer it by way of showing that contempt was not what I was expressing in that Comment below.