Sunday, February 14, 2016

Suspension of Disbelief

There are two terms related to filmmaking that have utility in other fields: persistence of vision and suspension of disbelief.

Persistence of vision describes the phenomenon wherein sequential still pictures shown in specific time intervals, give the impression of motion. When about 18 pictures are projected per second, the brain retains each image until the next one is presented, and connects them as motion. If you want the full story on that, look up Eadweard Muybridge (Originally Edward James Muggeridge), 1830-1904, who conducted the best known experiments in this field. But I digress.

The other term of art is "Suspension of Disbelief." This one applies in all fiction genres, as well as much of real life. It is what allows an audience (reader, listener, viewer) to accept things in a story that would normally not be believed, at least for the duration of the film, book or play.

Of course, writers and filmmakers are not the only ones who depend on these to reach an audience. Leaders at all levels, from politicians to dictators depend on them to control and direct their audiences. Today that effect seems more often used than thoughtful discussion. Just look at the crop of presidential hopefuls chasing us everywhere we look or listen or read.

Certainly there are things wrong that need righting, and things that are right that need support, but so far none of what I am hearing or seeing or reading from any of the candidates in either party strike me as realistic or even marginally possible, not to say plausible.

First of all, we are a people made up of so many different strands of DNA that to assert that there is one pure brand of human, and that there is no room for disparate points of view or strains of humanity is just not possible, even if it were preferable. Who among us can claim to be "authentic?" Unpleasant as it may seem, after the millions of years of evolution, to assert that there is any single or pure human line is as unrealistic as saying some breed of dog is "pure." As far as I know, the animal we call "dog" has ancestors we can call canine, but no more specific than that. But again I digress.

What is clear to me at least, is that there are no single answers, no "my way or the highway" path to health, wealth and security, no road to salvation (if salvation itself is even achievable). To hear the politicians and their die-hard supporters, however, one must accept "my way" solutions to things that may or may not be problems in the first place. Our country, especially, has grown up facing challenge after challenge, working our way from "we don’t want a king to tell us what to do" to "We don’t want a king. Period." Or any other dictator. We still want to govern ourselves. Hopefully the final candidates will be ones who recognize that.

There is no single answer, no one path that will take us farther along the road to the "perfect union," that we seek. I, for one, find much of this year’s rhetoric disturbing. By casting our choices in terms of good and evil, of "my way or no way," we not only limit our choices. We limit our humanity. Do the politicians really believe what they are saying?

My suspension of disbelief needs new shock absorbers.

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