The Age of Unreason

“Where is fancy bred? In the heart, or in the head?”

This quote originally comes from The Merchant of Venice, but I was actually quoting Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I never realized how philosophical that movie is. Where is fancy bred? Is it conspired in one’s mind to achieve one’s own ends, or does the heart create fantasies for some ultimate purpose?

Maybe it’s a bit of both, depending on who’s in question.

Look, I get it. We’re scared. We’re scared of the unknown. We’re absolutely terrified of what may lie beyond the curtain of our existence. We exist, and we cannot fathom what it’s like not to exist, and the heart doesn’t want to believe that when we die, the show is really over. So we cling to a fantasy that makes the reality of death easier to cope with, and gives us hope that there is more after the party is over. And we accept whatever we have to accept to facilitate this fantasy, even if it means outright irrationality. We will literally accept anything that even resembles evidence, however unfounded or weak it may be, and use it to support our faith in this folly.

But that doesn’t change what it is. Folly. All the faith in the world isn’t going to magically make true what we know can’t be. If we still lived in the Bronze Age, that sort of self-delusion might have been excusable. Fantasy was all they had, in a world where no one really knew anything about anything, and the only way to make sense of it at all was to introduce an external, all-powerful, unseen force. Except, it doesn’t make sense. Not with what we now know.

And now people are exploiting millenia-old fancies to do terrible, deceitful, horrible things. The world, as we know it, may even come to an end because of a fantasy. And while I understand your reluctance to give up the cherished beliefs that have brought you so much comfort and peace, at some point you have to acknowledge that this solace comes at just too great a price. Now is the time to give up these unfounded fantasies and superstitions, lest they kill us all.

Or maybe we never left the age of unreason. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

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