Storytelling, dreams, and magic

Life in Truth (as opposed to the “life actual” world we see with our eyes) “tells us of the world as it should be. It holds certain values to be important. It makes issues clear. It is, if you will, a fiction based on great opposites, the clashing of opposing forces, question and answer, yin and yang, the great dance of opposites. And so the fantasy tale, the ‘I that is not you,’ becomes a rehearsal for the reader for life as it should be lived.” – Jane Yolen in “Touch Magic”

MRbloghop2016When we wake up from a dream, we’re aware of the fact that we didn’t realize we were dreaming while we were dreaming, but accepted what was happening as real no matter how improbable it seems in the light of day. Daydreams are somewhat the same. We’re imagining surfing in Hawaii or climbing Mt. Everest when somebody says, “you look like you’re a thousand miles away.”

Authors hope readers will react to their books like this. We want the reader to step into the story and, as the words flow forward along the pages, believe a little or a lot that the story is real. When a book is compelling, readers are often startled when the phone rings or somebody knocks on the front door and they find themselves back in “life actual” in somewhat the same way they react when they wake up from a compelling dream.

It’s said that Samuel Taylor Coleridge suggested that when stories contain human interest and a semblance of truth, readers will temporarily suspend their judgement about the implausibility of the plot, setting and characters. Readers willingly suspend their disbelief and see the novel, short story, play or movie as life actual rather than life in truth.

A general fiction author will take us to a real place, or at least a realistic place, in our own comfortable domain of life actual (sometimes called “consensual reality”) and tell us a story that could happen (or might have happened) in the “real world.” (I put “real world” in quotation marks because both Quantum physicists and spiritual gurus have called into question whether the world we perceive as real is real.)

Contemporary fantasy authors will take you to a hidden place within the world we know where magical events occur. The Harry Potter series is a good example of this. Most of the magic within Rowling’s books was confined to Hogwarts and other magical locations. The consensual reality at Hogwarts was different from the consensual reality in London, and both readers and wizards knew that they were traveling between parts of the world with different rules.

perception2Magical realism authors bring magic into the world we know. In a magical realism story, the magic is part of the characters’ everyday life and is accepted as just as real and viable as the cars they drive and the pots and pans in their kitchens.  The characters don’t see magic as something with the world “maybe” attached to it whether that magic comes from the land, from ancestors or spirits, or from the spell casting or innate abilities of the people involved.

The authors of general fiction (or realistic genres), contemporary fantasy, and magical realism all want readers to suspend their natural disbelief in the reality presented in the novel, and accept it as real in the same way they accept dreams and daydreams as real. In some ways, readers are like those who go up on stage during a hypnotist’s or magician’s performance and say, “Yes, I’m willing to be hypnotized” or “Yes, I’m willing to be fooled by your illusions.”

Perception is Reality

Storytellers, hypnotists and stage magicians (illusionists) can place you into somewhat of a dream state in which you accept what’s happening as real because we believe that perception is reality in one or more of these ways:

  • Psychologists might say you see the same reality as everyone else, but are impacted by it differently because of how you feel about it or yourself.
  • Quantum physicists might say that reality is more than we perceive with our physical senses and that our thoughts or our presence impact it in ways we may not realize.
  • Those who study and accept what used to be called “new age” belief systems will say that our perception and our thoughts create the reality we experience and that we can be taught how to do this consciously.
  • And others will say that our perception of what is real can changed temporarily due to hypnosis, strong emotions or other traumas, alcohol or drugs, or some other life actual cause.

When it comes down to it, most authors don’t think about “perception is reality” while they’re writing. Learning one’s craft brings authors the techniques they need to tell a page-turning story that readers perceive as real while they’re reading it. Most of us want to be tricked one way or another when we watch a hypnotist’s or a stage magician’s performance. We don’t usually think about being tricked or enchanted or hypnotized when we pick up a novel, but that’s what happens if the story on that novel’s pages is well told.

Magical Realism or Just Plain Realism?

I see the world as a child of the new age. I’ve had arguments with publishers about whether my novels and short stories should be called general fiction or magical realism because I believe everything in my stories is real. But, publishers, bookstores and readers tend to like seeing the genre labels because those labels help them choose the ways they like being hypnotized or enchanted (in a magical sense) by an author.

What do you see?

What do you see?

I’ve always written about the world I perceive. Until others pointed it out, I didn’t realize I was writing magical realism. I had to ask, “What makes my stories fit into that genre?” Publishers, editors and writing gurus kept telling me, “You and your characters. . .”

  1. View the spell for creating a pillar of fire or jinxing a troublesome neighbor as no different than a recipe for mac and cheese.
  2. Assume haints and other spirits are just as likely to be in the forest as deer and raccoons.
  3. Give myths and legends just as much credence as recorded history–or suggest they’re more accurate
  4. Think trees, rocks, storms and the land itself are conscious.

I said, “Yes, of course I perceive everything that way. Doesn’t everyone?”

As it turned out, most other people don’t share my perception of reality in their day-to-day lives; however, enough of them like being lured into short stories and novels with that kind of perception to make magical realism a popular genre.

I think I was the last to know.

The world as we know it draws lines between our dreams and our waking hours, between illusion and five-senses perception, between magic and non-magic, and between life actual and life in truth. Magical realism takes away all those lines.

Malcolm

This post is part of the Magic Realism Blog Hop. About twenty blogs are taking part in the hop. Over three days (29th – 31st July 2016) these blogs will be posting about magic realism. Please take the time to click on the frog button for a list of other blogs in the hop. Links to the new posts will be added over the three days, so do come back to read more.

Do you agree that perception is reality?

“Most all of the current brain research is leading to one conclusion. Most of what we consider to be happening ‘out there’ is really occurring ‘in here’ within the confines of our own head. Perhaps this is why mystics refer to the external world as maya, or an illusion. It’s interesting to note the word ‘illusion’ is derived from the Latin root ‘illusere,’ which means ‘innerplay.'” –MaAnna Stephenson in The Sage Age, Blending Science with Intuitive Wisdom

What do you make of this quotation from MaAnna Stephenson’s new book?

Do you view perception is reality as figurative? That is, psychological in tone, warped or clarified by our attitudes, preconceptions, philosophies, likes and dislikes.

Or, do you view perception is reality as actual? That is, literally concrete, dynamic, and totally synchonistic with your intentions (conscious or otherwise) and mission here on the planet.

Or, do you view the notion as merely interesting and/or absurd?

We can step into a labyrinth here, suggesting that if you believe perception is reality, then it is, but that if you believe perception is not reality, then it isn’t.

Perhaps your perception of perception has a great impact on your view of how things work in the world, whether it’s a jungle or an oasis, whether it’s filled with hate or love, whether goals and intentions create the “future” or whether fate and the purported stronger wills of others bring tomorrow into actuality, whether there’s more room in our lives for fear or for hope.

As the Christmas song asks: Do you see what I see? I’m suggesting that you may or may not see what I see and vice versa, and that problems between people often occur because they presume their perceptions of reality, while necessarily synchronous in many basic respects, are hand-in-glove matches. To know, better yet to understand, another person or another group requires, I think, really seeing what they’re seeing, that is to say, knowing quite literally where they’re coming from and where the “live.”

Does this make sense? How do you perceive such ideas? Are they foreign or are they an integral part of your reality? Either way, I’m suggesting that the universe is responding to your opinions and your imagination. Or, it may be better to say, I perceive that it is within my reality.

Copyright (c) 2008 by Malcolm R. Campbell

 

Embark on the Journey, Follow the Fantasy, Create the Reality

The Sun Singer, new age literary fiction by Malcolm R. Campbell

Buy the e-book for only $5.33 at Powell’s Books

Perception is Reality

“What are dreams, Grandfather?” They were walking to the store for a newspaper when Robert asked him.

Grandfather smiled. “Scientists have been searching for the answer to that question for years.”

“But what do you think?” Gotcha, thought Robert, elated that he said But what do you think? first.

Grandfather stopped in the shade of a large oak. “Like this old tree,” he said, “some dreams are infinitely wise. Others are like the children playing on those swings, young and carefree.”

“When I wake up, my dreams seem weird,” said Robert. “I always wonder why I believed the situations were normal while they were happening. How do I make sense of it?”

“First you remember them, then you control them,” he said as he watched the children pretending the swings were airplanes.

“Control them?”

“It’s your dream. Change it. If you see an old rock, change it into a sock. If you don’t need a hose, turn it into a rose. When monsters appear, never fear, just ask for a spear. So you don’t like sour milk, transform it into cream, and then you’ll know you’re having a dream.”

“Sounds like fun,” said Robert.

“Once the fun begins, you’re ready for the next step.” He picked up a penny from the sidewalk and closed his hand around it. “Next, you learn dreamspinning—how to control your waking life in the same way.” He opened his hand—what sleight of hand was this?—and there was a crisp twenty-dollar bill.

“Grandfather, how?”

“Oh my goodness,” he exclaimed, “I guess I’m a counterfeiter!” He crumpled up the bill and tossed it high into the air where it flew, or seemed to fly, past the oak tree, past the two girls on the swings, and crossed the street toward the red flowers in the hanging baskets in front of Binah’s Bakery.

“Hmm, that appeared to be a female ruby-throated hummingbird that was very interested in those fuchsias,” Grandfather said, scratching his head as though he was puzzling out the thing himself.

“Grandfather, I’m not sure I want to know whether that really happened or you tricked me with some slick razzle dazzle.”

“But, Robert, what would be the difference?”

–Copyright (c) 2004 by Malcolm R. Campbell in The Sun Singer

According to police, eye witness testimony is the worst possible kind. Bring in ten witesses to an auto accident, and they will give you ten different stories. Reasons for this vary. One is that each witness may view the incident from a different vantage point. Others may have heard it, then looked at the positions of the cars after it was over and assumed they had actually seen it. And yet others, because their line of site was blocked or something made them look away, will fill in the gaps in the sequence of events with a assumptions about what happened. Put them on lie detectors and each one will pass with flying colors without a clue that any of his memory is incorrect.

How different is life itself? We see our lives differently from day to day and while our perception of what we’re doing and how it meshes with the world around us–while iron-clad reality to us–isn’t going to synchronize 100% with how our family and friends see it.

We come from different frames of reference with varying amounts of childhood “programming” from authority figures and this creates a positive or negative spin to some of what we encounter. We’ve had a variety of experiences over the years that impact out attitudes even to the point where mistaken perceptions can’t be alterered in our minds by clearly presented facts

It’s no wonder we have trouble finding our hearts’ desires, achieving our highest goals, or agreeing with anyone when it comes to national issues. Our perceptions don’t match. Worse yet, what we see is what we wanted to see even though we may complain that we don’t like it.

Illusions are often stronger than what our eyes and ears and brains are trying to show us.

Copyright (c) 2008 by Malcolm R. Campbell