One of the most restrictive things about people are their imaginary friends. That is, the unrecognised, uncollected fragments of things that they believe and things that they want to believe but don’t really understand, but which nonetheless inform their decisions. Inform how they act toward others. We’re going to talk imaginary friends today, and the entire time, I want you to imagine that with every word of this article, one of your imaginary friends is whispering to you what it means, even as your eyes read the text. I want you to recognise that that’s happening, and analyse it as it does; the duality of the message.
So when I say that an “imaginary friend” is something that influences people, I’m like ninety percent sure that most people were thinking, “Oh here he goes after religion.” And, kind of. The problem with that, like with most things people say, is that it isn’t complicated enough to actually define anything.
I want to talk Muslims, but since that could land me in jail, I’ll talk Christians instead—because you know, somehow, that wouldn’t be hate speech at all. Christians are actually prohibited from eating proteins except for fish on Friday, if you read the Bible with the type of thoroughness that I personally can’t quite manage.
So when we’re talking imaginary friends, we’re talking something like that. An uncritical, uninformed look at why you might only be allowed to eat fish on Friday. People are just like, “yes. Only fish on Friday.” They were brought up that way, they get an itch in their brain (low-intensity amygdala alarm response) when they think about eating not-fish on Friday, and this type of thinking severely limits their behaviour and choices.
On the other hand, someone who just doesn’t eat proteins at all, or doesn’t eat proteins on certain days—in accordance with a healthy dietary ration—or only eats fish as protein because they need those omegas, specific types of fats, or what-have-you—that’s not the function of an imaginary friend. That’s a function of a choice, a preference, or a scientific, reasoned decision on how to control their diet.
Are you beginning to see the difference?
“Fish” is a variable in a set of decisions that you make about your life which are constant. However “fish” features in your grand set of equations which determine what you do and when—your self-programming, perhaps?—the only way an imaginary friend gets in there and screws things up is if you haven’t really thought about it rationally.
Why were Christians only able to eat fish on Fridays? Maybe there were protein rations. Maybe Friday was “kill” day, and the proteins wouldn’t be hanged and cleaned properly until Saturday sometime. Maybe some religious figure did things that way, and so the Bible strained to try and make it some type of custom—the worst, most despicable and obsequious type of from-the-grave peer pressuring that I can even conceive of (so, you know, congratulations to whoever came up with that).
The reason doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you let something with no basis in your own experience, grounding, rationality or discourse determine how you act and what you do. That’s an imaginary friend, hanging out in your ear and poking you in the brain.
This isn’t behaviour you should reward.
Why not? Because like so many things, listening to your imaginary friends becomes cumulative, learned behaviour. Listen to them about one thing, and maybe you start listening to them about other things. This is a self-training method of dealing with the world, right?
If you start just believing fragments of your psyche that are screaming at you about not eating fish, well, when are you going to figure out how to differentiate and integrate that thought into your rational thought centers? Think of it like a honeycomb structure, filled with various types of air. There is something important to you in each and every single one, but you can only visit some of the rooms—because that’s where the breathable air is.
There are still important things in your honeycomb structure, but they are locked in rooms filled with chlorine gas, or mustard gas, or vacuum, or acid or teargas or something. You can see them from windows in other rooms, and so from a distance, you can vaguely appreciate the importance of these things, locked away in these rooms—and conveniently protected from close inspection.
Eventually, you get comfortable with those things being distant from touch, but close to the eye and imagination. It gets a lot easier to lock things in your honeycomb and pollute the air in the room so you don’t have to get in there and look at those things too hard. Slowly, those things might become more important to you.
Of course, your honeycomb structure? That’s your brain. And eventually, as you age, you stop being able to build new rooms. The only way to get more space is to get into those rooms with toxic air, and and begin to clean that air out. Reintegrate those rooms with the rest of the clean-air-rooms. In the doing of it, though, you wind up face-to-face with a lot of those things which you had locked away beyond the reach of reason, or rationality, or argument, or discourse.
A lot of the time, suddenly having those things back within reach is more a punishment than a reward for all that hard work you did airing out that room, but it’s good practice. You have a lot more rooms to clear.
Now, re-envision those toxic-air rooms as rooms guarded by your imaginary friends. They work a lot like the demon in The Exorcist.
What is your reward, you ask, as you are pained and made miserable by the death of each imaginary friend which made you so comfortable to be ignorant of the real nature of the protected areas in your brain?
You get more brain. More rational thought. Less space cramped by the screaming of your imaginary friends, and less space which is toxic to you as you try to explore things. You get more brain to use on the problems you’re going to have, which means more things you can transfer and apply against new things you encounter in the real world.
It’s always going to be important to use your entire brain against things, especially if it’s working altogether and rationally and without strange, angry phantasms screaming at you from inside your head. You’re going to find that there are enough strange, angry people screaming at you from outside anyway, and they don’t need the help.
Let’s go with a functional example that I’ve always really liked.
Leather pants are actually that example.
You won’t find anything which is more of a draw for your imaginary friends, and the material is therefore one of my favourite things on Earth; its meaning changes with every single context you apply it to. The stuff has always fascinated me. Let’s roll through it a little bit.
Your imaginary friends say that if its in the form pants and on a man, it’s gay. If it’s in the form of pants and on a woman, it’s slutty and provocative. If it’s on an Native American, it’s tribal, but if it’s seen by an Indian it’s blasphemy. If it’s on a person riding a motorcycle it’s protective. If it’s on an old person, or if it’s baggy, its (young-person-speak) “cringe.” If it’s on a rapper, or a celebrity, or a rock star, it’s fitting. If it’s being seen by a PETA operative, it’s getting red paint thrown at it.
Leather, especially in pants, is an amazingly rhetorical object. It does an incredible amount of work.
What is it, actually? It’s just a fucking fabric, people. Grow up. It’s probably actually one of the best things you could wear if you eat cows or buffalo or goats or whatever. It at least means there’s a marketable, sustainable use for their skins after we’ve mined them for their meat. Native Americans probably had the right idea there, with the full use of all available resources which is in accordance with my Finite Resources principle.
Just gotta find something to do with the bones, now. Modern art, anyone?
Point is, that’s a perfect example of imaginary friends totally dominating the discourse around a particular object in the world. Other examples might be things like—you know what? You guys know better than me what your imaginary friends are screaming about. Veganism and bacon and cheese and climate change and whatever.
However, to apply it to the geopolitical slant of this blog, we’re going to introduce your imaginary friends to words like “racism,” “diversity,” “multiculturalism,” “social security,” and “discrimination.”
Listen to them go totally insane.
So you might be asking yourself—amidst the screaming and crying—how to calm your imaginary friends down in the face of those types of words.
There’s only one way. Don’t ask them to be calm, because they can’t; you be calm. Get the facts. Do a lot of reading. And then go and find someone and talk to them about this stuff. Mention it in cafes. Bring it up at the bar. Challenge a parent over the phone or at the dinner table. Wear leather pants. Eat cheese. Try veganism for a week.
Figuring out what this stuff means without the shrieking of imaginary friends is very important to an understanding of how the world actually is, and as your imaginary friends die and as the toxic air is vented out of your brain, you might begin to realise that the reward for doing all that is a sort of thoughtful peace-of-mind which cannot be described easily.
Be careful, though. There are a lot of people around who’ve so venerated those toxic rooms and their imaginary friends that they can no longer even recognise that that’s what’s happening. You’ll know who these people are by their complete inability to discuss things rationally. When all you hear coming out of someone else’s mouth is the kind of shit-posting that their imaginary friend is likely to do on social media somewhere, you know you’re not talking to someone whom you’re ever going to be able to convince about anything.
There are a few reasons for this, but one of the primary ones is reflective of a study that was done earlier in the millennium, and it states, (I’ll paraphrase) that people cannot be reasoned out of a position which they did not reason themselves into. That is, the only time they—or you—will be able to effectively discuss anything is after you’ve done the research, understood the context and history, and have rationally decided on a position on a given topic.
Your imaginary friends don’t like context, rationality, or history. They don’t like it because it tends to kill them a lot. The thing about angry screaming is that it basically relies on not having a rational, well-considered reason. Once you have a rational, well-considered reason to take positions, it becomes difficult to indulge in angry screaming.
Why is this? I don’t know for sure, but I’ll venture a quick suggestions.
It’s waaaaay easier, for one thing, not to air out those toxic-air rooms. Not to bother with the demons who guard them. It’s easier to do what they say, and then keep doubling down so they won’t shout at you so much.
If that makes you sad, or feel pity for these people, don’t. No matter how I’ve made it look like there’s a foreign agency involved, there isn’t. We all do this to ourselves, and again, it’s always our job to eventually fix it.