Being Fantasy Prone

FantasyProneI am what the folks over at The Skeptics Guide to the Universe or SGU,(a podcast that I highly recommend to anyone who related to my post on Science)  call a fantasy prone personality. Basically what this means is that, left to my own devices, I am pretty susceptible to suggestion and inclined to believe the fantastic. Now under the influence of Bill Nye and Beakman I grew a deep affection for science, and the more I learned the more I realized how wonky most of my beliefs were. These realizations, as there were several, lead me to develop a “thicker skin” you might say around what I let in as truth, in order to prevent my world view from being shattered anymore. In line with that goal in mind I made my world view much more flexible, holding only the most seasoned of facts as something to count on, the rest was up for debate, and did I ever grow an affinity for debate, and argument in general.

It is a constant struggle for me to keep myself from buying into fantastic theories of how the world works and forming my own strange conspiracy theories. I will catch myself, willing the elevator door to open as a display of some latent telekinetic power, and have to snap myself out of it before I start acting anything out. The one allowance I afford myself is when watching movies or television shows, especially when they are convincing or at least consistent. When I am watching a fiction, I am there, it is real. This is why I can right so ‘matter of factly’ about the goings on of the Star Trek Universe or The Star Wars Universe; in a small part of my mind (and it probably bigger than I care to admit) these worlds really do exist to me. I allow myself this indulgence because its is easy for me to compartmentalize these worlds, when the credits role I am reminded that that was a different world, with different physics in a different universe.. oh and fictional, yeah its definitely made up.

This is what I mean, even the language that I instinctively use when talking about fiction has a flare of hippy headed disillusion. Truthfully there is always a part of me the feels justified in talking about these fictional worlds as though they were factual.. somewhere. I have reasoned that since String Theory provides for alternate realities where every permutation is played out, that it is just as likely that these fictional worlds exist as our own. While this notion does not impact my daily life it does provide some comfort to that part of my brain that yearns to believe in the impossible and crazy.

Despite this aspect of my personality, if you talk to the majority of my friends, family, and co-workers, they would probably characterize me as a cynic and a stick-in-the-mud. I do not tend to indulge that part of my personality when examining and discussing the real world. I do not believe in ghosts. I do not believe in magic. I do not believe in angels or demons. I do not believe in UFOs. Though I do believe that aliens are out there in the universe, and as likely as it is that we will never actually make contact, I just can’t convince myself to let go of the possibility that we may find signs of intelligent life next week. But most of I believe in the abilities of the human race to image the impossible and then engineer it into the possible.

I am often reminded, when thinking about science and the supernatural, of the Arthur C. Clarke quote and third of his three laws of prediction “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. This is often cited as an argument that aliens have visited earth and that their technology would explain all of the “miraculous” event in our history, a la Stargate. I however tend to think of it in another context, this quote usually reminds me that we as human being are capable of performing magic, and not only that but we are jaded to its existence and treat it like there is nothing to marvel at. In the ancient days a person who was capable of communicating with any other person on the globe with the touch of a button would be heralded as a wizard for that one ability alone. My point is that as technology progresses so too will our definition of what is miraculous and impossible, and that is an awesome prospect.

I guess I can thank my fantasy prone personality for this ability to see the extraordinary in the everyday, but it is important not to let it get carried away as I so often see. That is why I am very grateful for my equal passion for science, because with the knowledge it provides I am able to harness that wild desire to believe in the fantastic into an optimism and a fiery desire to believe in something much more powerful than the fictional creatures in movies and books; the human spirit.

And that’s my take on being fantasy prone.

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