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– Intangible, immeasurable, real or imaginary?

February 4, 2013

monkey and sofia blog intangible immeasurable real or imaginary headermonkey and sofia blog intangible immeasurable real or imaginary

I’ve just read two really fantastic books back to back: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, and all the while I was reading them and popping back into real life I felt as if I was looking at the world while standing on my head or through the distorted glass in the bottom of a bottle.  Are things really as they seem?  Or do our minds have the capacity to make order out of a jumble of images just to make things comfortable?  In creative and marvellous stories where odd events happen, the characters quickly adapt to the strangeness and accept things, obviously because if they didn’t the story wouldn’t work, but I have a feeling that if something odd happened in our everyday lives we too would just as quickly accept it and in no time it would cease to be strange.

Not long ago we watched a lovely film called Another Earth, where one day a seemingly identical planet earth appeared far away in the sky.  At first people were concerned, although not hysterically so and then gradually, over the years it took for the other planet to come closer, they became accustomed to it and mostly decide to carry on with their lives.  But then, what else would they do?  Go crazy?  Jump off tall buildings?  I know that this too was a story but I do think that our ability to adapt to strangeness seems to indicate that there is something inside us, ready to accept almost any change in our environment and that thing helps us shift our perception of how things are.  After all, those Apollo trips of the 1970’s suddenly changed our understanding of the moon and we accepted that.

There’s something liberating in this idea which appeals to me.  It makes me think that if one day, the planet decides to shift and make dramatic changes then we’ll just assimilate the change and learn to live with it, provided that’s possible.  The wonderful part is imagining the incredible.

I think people should be encouraged to think the impossible because currently most people prefer to function using only so called, hard facts.  Immutable truths, accepted values, shared knowledge and very few people spend time wondering what life would be like if things were ‘other’.  I’m sure this obsession with so called facts is a symptom of our society’s state of being, its obsession with news, documentaries and the internet, maybe people think that there’s nothing left to wonder about, the answers are all out there.  Definitely people are more drawn to stories which are based on ‘true life experiences’ than fiction.  But isn’t that a shame, when there are so many wonderful books about the strange and magical.  What will happen to our imaginations?  Will they start to stagnate from lack of exercise, so that eventually even another planet earth turning up will be accepted, once it has been sanitised by television crews?

Where does that leave fantastic stories like The Time Travellers Wife and The Night Circus?  Trapped in a bubble of make-believe or whimsy?  Or can they really help us understand who we are and our sense of place from a different perspective?  Actually, I find it hard to accept that stories as well made as these don’t have a resonance with our world.  Could the authors have written those stories without believing that there are things going on which we might not understand?  After all, the planet exists, we exist, animals, plants, trees, the sky, the sun, wouldn’t those things be incredible, fantastic and hard to believe if we hadn’t already accepted them?  Surely it stands to reason that there are many more marvellous things out there.  Why not?  It’s just that our perceptions aren’t up to the job of seeing that they’re there, not helped by our current obsession with facts and figures, true life stories, tangible television-worthy material.  Our other senses are shrivelling like our imaginations from lack of exercise.

The other thing I wondered about while stretching my mind around these beautiful stories was, what is actually going on inside people in today’s world if all the things which occupy our thinking are so external, like obsessing over the next electrical gadget or fashion accessory and absorbing superficial information.  What is happening to our hearts and our souls?  What feeds those important parts of us, what keeps them alive, warm and loving?  It has to be something intangible and impossible to quantify but how do those obsessed with measurable things know what that is?

This week I realised what that intangible is for those who have shared a long life with someone else.  A friend in his eighties is ill in hospital and the only thing his wife and family are hoping for is that he will be restored to them.  They know well the rituals which make a real life, the shared morning coffee, the pleasure of the garden they have made together and the joy their little dog brings.  These simple, meaningful things have been made by people who know love.  The only thing which breathes life into hearts and souls is the sharing of a life with another person, someone whose own heart and soul is nourished and maintained by our care and attention.  The intangible, immeasurable, elusive, unquantifiable thing we all search for, which doesn’t conform to scientific measurement or any sort of easily supplied internet answer.  So maybe the world isn’t as lost as it might seem because all the while we value, above all other things the intangible wonderfulness of finding love and living true to its meaning there’s still hope.

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One Comment
  1. Hi Maureen,
    I haven’t read any of the stories you mentioned (but will try them!), nevertheless I thought this was a very inspiring post, beautifully capturing the elusive, essential nourishment we really need in our hearts… you are a wise lady! And I LOVE your jaunty artwork!

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