“DID THAT REALLY happen? Was he a real person?”
“What you wrote, that was fiction, right?”
“Is this nonfiction or what? It starts out I know it’s real because there’s a picture of you and the airplane, but then…”
Instead of turning Socratic, those moments: “What is Truth, my child?” I frowned.
Who was the first person with the idea to class books, to class experience, to class life itself into two categories: Fiction or Nonfiction? Looking into the past, I see a forest of hands, “I did!”
Everybody perceives differently. One witness in court sworn to tell the truth, testifies that the defendant’s auto was travelling at high speed through a red traffic light, no attempt to stop. The defendant swears of course she didn’t stop because the light was green as Go! Who’s lying? Nobody. Different perceptions, caught in the strobe of a half-second drama. Colors become mind-stuff.
I heard a voice in my head once long ago, while I was landing my biplane, an old machine that a pilot couldn’t much see ahead. It had no radio, so the voice didn’t come electrically. I was landing, concentrated on that task, enjoying it.
The voice said, “Move to the right.” No emotion, just a suggestion.
Voices we hear, are they fiction? Imaginations in the mind? Not willing to debate this I moved, and one second after I stomped on the rudder and slammed my airplane to the right, another airplane shot by on the left side, landing in the opposite direction. (This story is true, by the way.)
There could have been no voice. The instant I slid to the right, the blurring flash of the other airplane, the event was done. Did the other pilot even see me? Don’t know, it doesn’t matter. I thought about that for years afterward.
Was that event fiction (a voice that couldn’t exist) or non-fiction (a collision, for certain, set by physics, to happen).
My non-fiction belief, I thought, was that I perceived a voice that day, it seemed like a voice in the summer of 1970, landing at Red Oak, Iowa. Thus, acting on the fiction of a voice that could not have happened, I did not become a flaming ball of wreckage collided on the grass.
What’s fiction? Some say, “The whole world’s fiction! Made-up scenes, beliefs, electrical signals that we see with our brain!”
Others smile indulgently. “You can’t touch ‘er, she ain’t real.”
I like to think that meaning, is “Whatever changes our thought and therefore our lives.”
Fiction can change our thought — how many deer-hunters-to-be never aimed a rifle at a deer after they read Bambi, pure fiction; or saw the movie, nothing but a cartoon on the screen? I’m one. Never shot at a deer, or at any animal, in my life. Thanks to Felix Salten.
Fact can change our thought, too, whether or not we can define what fact is. So can dreams, data, research, beliefs, carbon analysis, illusions, ice-core samples, telepathy, errors, ghosts, hard-copy printouts, miracles, photographs, alien abductors, someone’s fiction that we thought was fact, a collision on an old grass runway.
We are creatures of our perceptions. Even the walls we build to stop us from our beliefs are walls of perception, subject to Earth’s perfect solvent, imagination.
So come these stories, my own history, which I believe once happened in my life. Each story moves our lives one step forward. I thought they were disconnected, scattered memories. But now, watching them all, I think that they’re beautifully connected, as though they were the coins of destiny, each had to happen before the next one could exist.
Your own life may be the same way, the stories you’ve remembered, one after another. Are they thrown into your life by the gods, or are they footsteps that you’ve decided to hammer yourself, from the false recollections, from the true perceptions of memory?