What is the real purpose behind the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus? They seem like greater steps toward faith and imagination, each with a payoff. Like cognitive training exercises.
Chuck Palahniuk (American writer, born 1962)
You may not know much about Chuck Palahniuk, but if I tell you that he wrote the book on which the movie ‘Fight Club’ was based, then a bell will ring. He is an edgy writer of what he calls ‘transgressional fiction’ – and his own life is marked by real drama and tragedy. So look him up for more information.
Why did I choose this quotation? Well, for a start because it is Easter, and I was search for something uplifting about renewal, when I found this – and loved it.
Palahniuk exactly expresses my own feelings about belief in general – and actually, he could well have thrown ‘God’ into the mix. That will offend those who have a firm faith, but no matter. My real problem with militant athiests is that they are so bloody certain. They KNOW. Well, I don’t. ‘Know’, I mean.
I love mystery and respect faith and doubt equally – as long as they leaven each other – and think that to see life as a Quest is exciting and even noble. But a quest for what? I don’t know the answer to that either!
There are parents who refuse to pander to silly stories about Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy. Why feed untruths? One answer could be that it is – quite simply – fun. It is a part of the great art of story-telling which human beings have found essential since they first sat around a camp fire and drew pictures the day’s hunt on the walls of a cave. I bet some fibs were told then – untruths, you might say, if you felt like being negative. Or, on the other hand, you could see the exaggerations and yarn-spinning that must have gone on (you know what men are!) as an glorious extending of the imagination.
This is Palahniuk’s point. To believe (even if only when you are young) in the Easter Bunny paints a happy picture in your mind, and if (later in life) you choose to replace that with an image of the Risen Christ, then they ‘payoff’ is surely happiness. I don’t feel like turning it into anything more complicated than that. The cognitive training exercises’ he mentions try to train people to look at reality in a different way, to re-write the story (rather as I am trying to get the writer of today’s main letter to do) so that you draw a different conclusion about yourself and about what may or may not be possible. To do this you have to exercise the imagination. And imagination is surely what distinguishes us even from the highest animals?
So – let’s hear it for the Easter Bunny! May he hop into your life scattering all manner of good things.