The Last Hurrah
The Secret Power of the Human Imagination
Human beings tell stories to each other to make sense of the world. We also do it to entertain and to persuade, but more than anything else, our stories are the first ways we laid out the world in a manner that we could understand. Thor’s chariot was easier to understand as a source of thunderous rumblings than the soft things like clouds and air clashing together as if they were stones.
Nowadays we know these things are technically wrong. But even a false belief can change the world. One person with the one simple idea that flies in the face of reality, can make the the world agree with them. Just ask most emperors, whose belief that they should rule the world made them rule great chunks of it… For a time at least.
But now imagine, that instead of one crazy person with an idea, it’s a million people, with the same crazy idea, for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. Where one will changed the map, might a million change reality itself?
In this universe, yes. They can. Those stories which occupy the human imagination so vividly, inspire a form of belief that is infectious, and powerful. When enough of it accumulates, and it sees that there is no actual being that is being believed in, it changes the world accordingly. There was no Thor, until the human imagination created him.
Even today, this process is still going on. It’s weaker in this more cynical age, but it’s all the faster for how much more efficiently we create and share stories. Recently, hobbits have found homes safe under the hills of the Devon fields. Superheroes are quietly saving lives in American metropolises. Dracula slumbers by day in a Transylvanian castle. Oni stalk the mountains of Japan. Djinn lurk behind the dunes. Hercules performs in a circus.
All in secret.
Humans might have imagined these creatures, but they fear them. To know that they exist conjures implications that can inspire hatred, obsession, paranoia, or even madness. Depending on who you ask, there are names for this separation between the human world and the magical one:
The Sleeping Tiger
The Grand Illusion
The Someone Else’s Problem Effect
The Green Curtain
The Cold Iron Wall
The Ringing Payphone
But whatever you call it, it means the same thing. The average man on the street, with his head stuffed full of the effects of those same stories that walk 50 feet away, would call you mad if you were to point them out.