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Renie Garlick : Why Fiction Now? Part II

Why Fiction Now? Part II

By Renie Garlick

Part I of Why Fiction Now? defended Fiction as valuable to the development of humankind, our culture, spirit and mental capacities because it provides a safe place for experimenting with new and different ideas. In short, Fiction is an essential and much-needed problem-solving skill. So, reading and writing fiction in difficult times can help us gain the mental flexibility needed to figure out ways to create prosperity and happiness.

It was also pointed out in Part I that Fiction, unlike other problem-solving methods, delivers a feeling that we matter, that our lives mean something and is valuable. This becomes important especially when problems require Herculean efforts to be resolved.

How does Fiction do this? How does it inspire us to go on?

Let me tell you a story … (!) the story of Hanuman.

Hanuman, the great monkey god of the Hindus, is worshipped as the most devoted and most loyal servant of the Lord Ram. When Ram's love, Sita, is kidnapped and taken away by his brutal and ferocious enemy, none of Ram's army are willing to rescue her for fear of this enemy's great and awful power. Only Hanuman, ever-faithful, steps forward and vows to return Sita to his master.

After much fighting and many, many acts of fierce bravery, Hanuman succeeds in defeating his Lord's enemy and returns Sita to Ram. But Ram is overtaken with madness and accuses Hanuman of betrayal and of taking Sita in her bed as she slept. Though Hanuman assures Ram that he is his loyal and obedient servant and innocent of any such wrong doing, Ram has him executed and torn limb from limb.

Unfortunately, the great depth of Hanuman's devotion and innocence is given proof and realized by Ram but too late: for in all of Hanuman's blood running like a deep river from his body and on all of Hanuman's exposed and broken bones scattered and drying in the sun is written the one word, "Ram," over and over and over again.

When I first encountered this story I was confused — why is Hanuman devoted to Lord Ram only to be so horribly mistreated and misunderstood? Lord Ram does not deserve Hanuman's faithfulness! Upon further thought, I was entirely thrilled with the reward Hanuman received for his service — he was made a god. Darn right! Then, I wondered at the final scene — where Hanuman lying dead and all about Ram the ground is soaked with Hanuman's blood, and littered with Hanuman's bones, and all of this is spelling the one word, the one meaning of Hanuman's entire life, namely, "Ram."

Why is that written on Hanuman's bones; how did it get there? I don't think Ram wrote it because it was such a surprise to him to read it there. I can only think that Hanuman himself wrote it there, that Hanuman chose this as the meaning for his life and gave up his life to it.

But, what also seems likely, is that Hanuman's loyalty is given to a person who doesn't deserve it; who, in a sense, doesn't exist except in Hanuman's heart/imagination. Hanuman chose a fictional account of Ram as the meaning of his life… Fiction is written on his bones. And it is precisely this that confers godliness on this monkey.

Long and winded, I take from this story of Hanuman the understanding that Fiction inspires us by making us gods who have the power to create and imagine grand, brave new worlds.

Whether reader or writer, we exercise our godliness when we chose our fiction, when we "make it up." The world we chose to create is like no other. Though the creatures, environments and laws that govern them all may seem familiar, fiction is not reality. It is an imaginative, free, creative version you chose to accept as "real" within the confines of the story, for the time being, for the purposes of experimenting with some spiritual/personal/cultural/historical idea.

The degree to which you can find similarities and parallels between fiction and non-fiction is the degree to which your imagination has wielded its divine power. In this fictional world there are no laws except the laws you have chosen and these may be overturned at a moment's whim. That's your imagination doing its godlike work. [Please note: I am NOT interested here in judging the soundness or level of craft of the story itself. Sure, we may want to claim that a story so whimsical would fail to meet our standard of a "good" story, but that does not matter here in this discussion.]

In this fictional realm, we make something where there was nothing. We say "Let there be light!" and there is light. And, it all begins with a word, or some mental expression of our divine imagination… sound familiar?

"In action how like an angel; in apprehension, how like a god!"

Being a god may be exactly what is required to get through tough times. It may appear that our stories are easy exits from the work that lies ahead. However, it is true that times become tough because the old ways are not working and do not satisfy people's need for meaning — it is hard to feel that one is valuable in a climate of high unemployment. New ways are what is called for. And if you chose to step into another (fictional) world, then you can create a new way and a new value for your life. You can even imagine the possibility of being the hero of your own story. And this seems fundamental to making a better (non-fictional) world — for ourselves or our children or the fiction writers and readers of the future. We need to be able to imagine it and to imagine it freely before we can build it. We need the dream and we need to feel it written on our bones.

So, now you can go back to the latest adventures of _______ (fill in the blank) and know that the world is better for it! •

© 2009 Renie Garlick. All rights reserved.

About the Author
Writer & book artist Renie Garlick indulges her long-standing curiosity about the magical relationship between reader and book wherever and whenever she can. Using her own story "To Stand Under A Yellow Tree, Imagining" (available at and set for wide release on May 5, 2009) Renie invites you to collaborate at She lives in northwest NJ leading workshops and exhibiting in NY, PA and NJ.