“If you will practice being fictional for awhile, you will understand that fictional characters are sometimes more real than people with bodies and heartbeats”
— Richard Bach
There are times when I lie awake at night and have conversations in my head with characters from books. Malachi in Edgar Pangborn’s Still I Persist in Wondering, never bored and asking the question Why do we love when we know it will end up hurting us. Sometimes in my mind I find myself trading bad puns with the denizens of the Callahan stories by Spider Robinson and sometimes I find myself sharing some of the rougher problems I’ve had with them and thereby lessening the pain. When my mother passed away I found myself receiving solace from the personification of Death as written by Neil Gaiman. THere are so many characters I’ve read over the years that they have taken on a life of their own at least in my mind.
Does that seem far fetched? Do you have friends who you’ve only spoken to on the internet? How about casual acquaintances and distant relatives who most of what you know about each other is myth that you’ve used to fill in the blanks. How real are they to you? How real is the clerk at your local grocery store whom you smile and joke with? Do you even know their name?
At best, the amount of matter we give to a person or thing in our lives whether fictional or corporeal varies based on our mindfulness and our interest. Yes I have loved fictional characters and given them more life than I have the casual strangers I meet each day. Doing this has allowed me to have more appreciation for other beings in general and a keener appreciation for the real.
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