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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

I was bouncing around Facebook yesterday and I came across a meme that tried to explain why Gandalf did not have the eagles get rid of the ring in the Lord of the Rings movies. When it comes to the Lord of the Rings, that opening sentence is all I really know about the movies or the books. I read The Hobbit when I was a kid, but I never got into those stories like other people did. I focused my nerd energy on Godzilla and Star Trek.

What I found interesting about this discussion is how passionate people were about getting the “facts” right. It was at that point that I realized that there are a lot of people out there who prefer to live in a fantasy world instead of reality, and that could explain why this country is so deeply divided on real world issues.

Let’s get something straight here – nothing about the Lord of the Rings is fact. The Lord of the Rings is a series of very well-written fictional stories that help people to escape into an alternate reality and get away from this reality. To many people, escaping into a fantasy world to get away from the real world sounds nuts. But when you stop to think about it, maybe dissing this world for Middle Earth is not such a bad idea.

While the Lord of the Rings has done a great job at gathering a passionate fan base, I would have to say that the movie franchise that does the best job of completely blurring the line between fantasy and reality is Star Wars. In Australia, being a Jedi is recognized as an official religion. I have read plenty of stories of people who have given up their jobs to train to become Jedis, and they consider themselves to be masters of that made up religion.

The arguments between Lord of the Rings nerds and Star Wars nerds are very different. The people who have a fringe understanding of Lord of the Rings have no problem getting involved in discussions and asserting their points with information that may or may not be found in the books or movies. If enough people believe that misinformation, then it can take on a life of its own until someone takes the time to disprove whether or not Gandalf actually had a pet monkey that could speak (I made that up – or did I?).

But when it comes to Star Wars nerd fights (By the way, I am a proud Godzilla nerd. So I do not necessarily throw that word around with a lack of respect.), you better know your stuff or you will have no credibility. If you cannot accurately recite the lineage of the Darths, then you have no place in a discussion about the rise of the Empire. Trust me, I have seen it happen and I have seen what Star Wars nerds do to people who think they know what they are talking about.

But what about reality? You know, the world we live in? Why are people so insistent on getting the facts about Star Wars right, yet they seem to have no problem entertaining the idea that Donald Trump would make a good president. When it comes to Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, there is no such thing as personal perception. Either you know the entire story of the Clone Wars verbatim, or you just cannot get your facts straight. But it is OK for 100 people to watch an elected official refuse to do their job based on their own personal beliefs, and give 100 different interpretations of what is going on.

If we put half as much effort into creating a coherent reality as we do sustaining the pretense of a fictional story, then we may be able to start closing the gaps that separate us. We can start by realizing that religion is based on good ideas and great stories, but not on facts. We can start by accepting that dinosaurs and people did not live together just because the Bible insinuates that it may be true.

People are difficult to read sometimes. They will allow for personal interpretation of laws and real events, but they will stand fast on maintaining the “facts” surrounding a fictional story. When you look at how people insist on getting their made-up facts right, maybe it is not so difficult to understand why the real facts are constantly distorted and, often times, simply forgotten.

+George N Root III is a Lockport resident who is always making up facts. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3 or send him a message at Go go Godzilla!)

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