Doesn't anyone make believe anymore?

People who don’t believe in faeries aren’t worth knowing. - Tori Amos
I know the true world, and you know I do. But we needn’t let it think we all bow down. - Christopher Morley, The Dark is Light Enough

So I was hanging out over in the Pit, and bumped into a thread called Damn You Weird Earls, in which an honourable member claims to be ‘scarred for life’ due to seeing a website by a guy who likes to dress up like Peter Pan, containing his insights on life, religion, and his desire to stay childlike.

I came to his defense. What we have here is a guy with an active fantasy life; maybe even what we used to call a “hobby”, when time was. He doesn’t even seem to be holding any opinions which the herd of scientific rationalists hereabouts would be pleased to call “delusions”. (This notwithstanding, I had the same opinions of Mrs. Berlin Wall who showed up on 3F the other year.)

At any rate, I also brought up how I’m working on a worldbuilding project, making a website on an imaginary country, which when complete will include information (and drawings, and digitally-altered photos - good ones, if I say so myself) on its history, culture, geography, religion, politics, philosophy, and language.

So our honourable Coldie asks, “But… why, Matt? A made-up kingdom with its own language? I can relate to it, in the way we used to make up our own ‘country’ when we were kids. But it seems… somewhat weird coming from a very much down-to-earth, adult, guy like yourself. With that I mean politically engaged, mainly.”

I have to admit I find such a viewpoint baffling. Does my attainment of the age of majority and involvement in politics mean I am no longer allowed to have fun and use my imagination and make believe?

Am I right in my impression that there seems to be a prejudice against adults who make believe for fun? If so, what are the origins of this prejudice?

An initial thought was that people with an active fantasy life can be accused of really believing their fantasy to be fact, but I don’t think that accusation can really be made of the Peter Pan guy, and it sure as hell can’t be made of me (he said, making preparations to head out to the protest on medicare and education cutbacks).

Is it simply that old refrain, people ridicule and fear what they don’t understand?

Why are social weapons like ridicule used against people who harmlessly use their imaginations for fun?

Just to make it completely clear, although I’m sure Matt realises this: I don’t find Matts fantasy kingdom ridiculous, or childish. If anything, I’m not sure what to think of it at all! That’s why I asked him, in that Pit thread, what his motivation was. And yes, the way Matt comes across to me did not, in my mind, accomodate the possibility that he might be out there thinking up fantasy kingdoms. Well, let’s put it this way: there are other people here on the boards that I’ve seen similar projects of. With THEM, it surprised me less. Prejudice? Nah. Just surprise.


I made a joke about “needing therapy” after seeing that website. Obviously it was in bad taste, and I truely apologize to everyone I offended.

I just wanted to make one thing clear. I never said he shouldn’t do what he does, or you shouldn’t do whatever you do. It’s none of my business, and I’m sorry I ever commented. I do try to practice “If you don’t have something nice to say…”, and this one slipped by my radar.

In that spirit, I shall keep my comments to myself regarding other people’s free time activities. They do not affect me, therefore I will reserve judgement or opinion.


I saw a television program recently about a bunch of otherwise rational adults acting out a “live action” version of D&D for their own amusement – dressing up as warriors and goblins and wizards, hacking at each other with plastic weapons, deciphering scrolls, the whole nine yards. And to an outside observer they looked like a bunch of idiots in cheap costumes.

The catch, of course, is that the most important part of the exercise is the part the camera can’t catch – the internal story that is being followed by the participants in this exercise, the suspension of disbelief that elevates them from being playactors in some cheesy game to being heroes and villains and gods, if only for a little while.

So go ahead, matt, create your own world. How often do we get to play god, after all? :slight_smile:

By the way, I’m not coming down on Zette or Coldfire on this; if it had been my intent to do so I would have done so in the Pit.

In particular I do realize that Zette was joking about needing therapy (actually, in my thing about the poster scarred for life I was referring to the OP).

I just want to discuss this issue here, which is why I started a new thread.

I’m with Matt all the way here.

First, exercising one’s imagination is fun. And it keeps one young – a desirable goal, especially if you’ve passed 50 like me.

If it amounts to nothing, it is still more pleasing, because done to your own specifications, than watching the latest pabulum generated by the media and euphemistically called “entertainment.”

And sometimes it does get you somewhere. There was a guy named Bill once who started fooling around with the TRS-80 he’d built from a kit, and came up with a new way to program it: a simple basic language that contained references to libraries of peeks and pokes, reads and writes, and all that other fun stuff. Just for a hobby – he was, admittedly, a computer geek.

Then there was the monk who got assigned to the monastery garden, and tried to see if he could figure out what made his sweet-pea plants grow in different ways. Just to while away the time as he tended the garden.

Then there was the math geek who decided, for the fun of it, what happens if you punch a number into an equation, take the result, and feed that back into the equation in place of the original number, and keep doing that.

You may have heard of these guys.

Matt, don’t listen to the Gradgrinds of this world who want to stamp out fantasy and whimsy. Creativity must have its outlet; some people dance, others paint or act, and still others build imaginary worlds. Where would we be without Oz, Middle Earth, or Gormenghast?

At least your imaginary world will reflect the warmth, kindness, and gentle spirit of its creator, unlike the imaginary world of FriendofGod, which is a very scary place indeed!

On a side note, my mother gave me The Dictionary of Imaginary Places for Christmas (there’s a review here if you’re interested). A book whose time has come, say I.

I like the Peter Pan guy. I think his webby site is cool and I also think he has some cute threads! (mens’ so-called “fashion” choices could sure use a nudge).

Matt, I have an imaginary land and a language, too.

I have next to no written record of the language, as my mother threw away my workbook when I was at college because she thought I was living in a fantasy land. I can understand why she thought that - although the cause of my detachment was actually depression, rather than any hobby that I had.

I don’t have a website, though. I am in awe of yours. I think I should let you be an example to me - you seem to get so much done in your life!

How you manage to have time to read the SDMB as well, I can’t imagine.

I actually gave up sleep some time ago.

First, I’ll identify myself as the OP from the Pit thread.

I never said I was “scarred for life.” By using quotes, Matt makes the implication that I said this, thereby making it appear I made a more emphatic statement than I did. Maybe I was mistaken, but I thought the Pit was the proper place for my post. Perhaps it should have been a reply to the “Things that make your jaw drop” thread that I can’t find now.

The point of it being in the Pit was that is was insignificant. In no way did I advocate stopping this guy from being weird. I applaud genuine weirdness and nonconformity. I will admit, however, it caused the proverbial “double take” when I first viewed his site. The fellow even knows he is a half-bubble off level.

From Peter Pan’s website.

That being said, Matt does make a good point here about how seriously we tend to take ourselves, particularly in the US. I’ll take it as constructive criticism.

I join Zette in apologizing to those who take offense to my jest. But, I still say it is weird. :slight_smile:

Ridicule can be as powerful or as weak a weapon as you choose, not as your attackers choose. You will allow yourself to have fun—no one else gets to choose to allow you what you want when it comes to your imagination. It may not be embraced, but that is a different thing. When I was a little girl, I thought my Daddy was a king----smart, good and powerful. And being a daughter of a king, I was of course a princess. Dad is still a king amoung men, and I am a princess still. Scared and insecure, I walk into the room with my head up and a small smile on my lips. My people don’t need to hear me whine or see me cower. If any are ignorant enough to sneer at me, I ignore them–commoners can be so difficult— misguided souls. I don’t demand court courtesy, so most people don’t realize I am a princess, but I know I walk through this world knowing my father is a king. And how can one more beautiful, confident person be a bad thing?

If you were to say you were going to use your imaginary world as the setting for a novel, nobody would bat an eyelash. They might even admire you for it. You’re a writer.

People dress up and act like ficional characters all the time. If you do it in a specific place with a curtain in front, people will applaud you. You’re an actor.

But if you engage in these activities under the auspices of a role-playing game, or just for fun, you’re a freak and you need to get a life.

Children engage in all sorts of unstructured imgination-driven activity. This is encouraged as part of the learning process. As adults, we have more knowledge, skills, and money, so we can take make-believe to a higher level. Grown-ups have great potential to imagine something wonderful and share it with others. So why is acceptable adult make-believe restricted to certain forms: books, movies, plays, paintings, sculpture, music, and the like? Why is anything else considered childish and sad? It boggles my mind. I guess people are always made uncomfortable when they see someone breaking the rules, whether it’s talking too loud or peeing in public or playing an RPG–but I wonder why this particular rule evolved in the first place?

Now Matt, you knew this was coming…

Now I enjoy science fiction as well as fantasy books as much as the next guy. I appreciate the tallent and imagination it requires to write some of the better books of these genres. However, I have been to one or two medieval faires (under protest) and I have found it rediculous to see grown men and women walking around in berkinstocks and period gear with tin and wooden weapons in hand trying to speak in some kind of basterdised Shaksperean english. It’s more than silly, I think. Thank goodness I’ve never been dragged to a Star Trek convention. That would be too much to take.

So to answer the OP, if you can use your imagination in a way that either:
a) has mass appeal
b) has mass appeal and makes you money
c) has mass appeal, makes you money and makes you famous
d) has mass appeal, makes you money, makes you famous and benefits society in some way

Then you are on to something.

Otherwise you are deemed to be wasting time. Which is not a crime per se but is frowned upon if you are cought doing so in the office on company time.

I would like to point out that we are talking about two different things. On the one hand, we have a 47-year-old man who dresses up like Peter Pan, complete with summer closes and winter clothes and work clothes, all a la Pan. (If anyone hasn’t checked out the site, I recommend it; though it apparently is not PC to point out that it’s amusing – it’s amusing). On the other hand, we have MATT, who spends his free time constructing a website to memorialize his own fantasy land, complete with language. MATT says of the Peter Pan guy:

No. What we have here is a guy who has taken a “hobby” or affinity for Peter Pan and turned it into something more, to the extent that he cuts his hair like Pan, dresses like Pan, has his own self-glorifyng website, and seeks his own “Tinkerbell.” We are dealing with a person who blurs the line between fantasy (a fictional children’s story) and reality (the life he has to live, which he is apparently not truly comfortable living as his own self, but rather as Peter Pan).

This is far, far different, IMO, from a person who has a fantasy-based hobby. It represents a refusal or an inability to separate that which is untrue (fictional, and therefore probably unimportant) from that which is true (real life and the way that you live it). It is delusional, if willfully so as opposed to clinically so – this man is not Peter Pan, and he doesn’t become Peter Pan by dressing like him. Now Peter Pan may well have qualities this person admires, but most of us do not make a commitment to dress like fictional characters just because we admire them. If people did, I might have a fighting chance that when, if ever, my knight in shining armor arrives, he’ll actually be wearing shining armor.

Speaking only for myself, I would say that I am not prejudiced against adults who “make believe for fun.” The Society for Creative Anachronism, Civil War reenactments, role-playing games – none of them are my bag, but I can see how they might be someone else’s. I suppose I AM prejudiced, if only benignly so, against people who insist on importing fantasy into reality, as if they don’t know the difference; or as if by insisting that fantasy IS reality, they can make that so; or as if they cannot pull the positive elements and lessons out of a fantasy without literally wearing its costume. Did I smile at Peter Pan Guy? Sure. I smiled at the prospective OJ-juror who wanted to wear her Star-Fleet uniform, too.

I think there’s a great gulf of difference between being amused by something and ridiculing it or fearing it. What if the guy wore a Goofy-suit, complete with big ol’ head and feet, all day every day because he was so into Goofy and what Goofy stood for? That I might be amused by that doesn’t mean I either ridicule it or fear it. It’s a grown man wearing a Goofy suit.

I don’t think they are. I think social weapons like ridicule are used against people who indicate that they don’t know the difference between fantasy and reality, or adulthood and childhood, or who refuse to acknoweldge such differences exists. Even then the ridicule is of the mild “get a load of that guy” type. Dress up like Jabba the Hutt, I don’t care. But I don think it’s asking too much to expect people not to notice, or not to find it funny.

Actually, Matt, this looks really cool. I’m going to create one myself.

I personally couldn’t care less if a guy wants to dress up like Peter Pan, talk to Tinkerbell all the time, and builds a web site about it. If he’s not carrying a large knife and stalking someone, I say more power to him.

My only concern with such fanciful diversions is when someone is clearly unqualified for the “role” at hand – such as, say, a grossly overweight guy dressing up as a Klingon and proclaming himself the greatest Klingon warrior evere known. Uh, no, bub, first you get in shape, then we’ll talk…

Considering I roleplay on Romanov and Titanic rpgs, I shouldn’t talk.

I guess we ALL make believe. It’s when one can’t separate fantasy from reality that it gets scary. It’s a fine line.

See my sig. I roleplay much of the time I’m online, usually rather loosely, but it’s always there. There are places online where roleplaying is not part of a game or a story (playing or acting), but is the rule of the day, done purely for its own appeal, whatever that might be to each individual person. (An example link)

I tend to roleplay in some video games, too. I played a game called Aliens Online (based on the movie of the same name) as one of the insect-ish creatures. Usually it was just a casual for-fun game (as queen of the hive, I would rally and guide my children to repel the invading apes), sometimes it was comical (as the hive-queen gives a table-dance for the marines in the colony bar, to catcalls and wolf-whistles :smiley: ), but sometimes, I would get into character so much that I would actually be visualizing claws tearing into flesh, and unconciously hissing at the monitor and things like that. I relate to the buggies :slight_smile:

So some of us still make-believe a lot. And in some ways, it’s not make-believe at all, but an actual closely-held (and closely-guarded) belief. For the Trek-folks, the society of Star Trek is a utopia: everyone is encouraged (and helped) to fulfill their potential and peace is the rule rather than the exception. I can understand someone wanting to live that utopia as much as possible. For me, dragons aren’t a fantasy beast that burned towns and ate princesses, they’re a spiritual symbolism. (an ‘animal totem’ if you will) Dragons mean a lot to me deeply: spiritually, mentally, and even erotically. Like the Star Trek utopia, it’s a way for me to believe in a different world, one more appealing than reality. Some folks have their God, that guy has his Peter Pan, I have my dragons. All the same thing.

So, to really call it “make-believe” is really only touching the surface of it.

Yeah, there’s a lot of flak that can be taken for it. Lots of people can believe in their Divine Wombat that makes the world better for them, and even make government organizations to encourage Wombatism, but woe be to those that hold a belief outside of the mainstream. Don’t ever mention it, or you’re “messed in the head” or various other similar comments.

But, it’s still there, and there are always places where you can express it freely. Even more so now, thanks to this internet thing. What did Gibson call his online world? A “consentual hallucination”? It’s not far from the mark now, you just have to know where to look :wink:

waits for derisive comments