As real as real?

That Philosophy 101 class back in my freshman year in college was a very bad idea.

It taught me more than what some dead people once thought about various things, it taught me that reflection on things that most people don’t think about is acceptable (to some, at least) and valuable (again, to some, at least). Which provided validation for my thinking about things that most people don’t bother to think about. Which as it turns out, in most places is not regarded as acceptable or valuable. Plus it gets you talked about.

Still, my stupid useless blog, my stupid useless musings.

Last time I said I’d talk about what is ‘real’, at least in terms of anime.

Lest this scrap of text be but a fragmentary remnant of a lost larger tome, unearthed from doomed digital dungeons by puzzled future archeologists, let me recap a bit: my apartment rooms are covered with anime (and anime-style) art, mostly of characters from anime shows. I have my reasons, though I probably am not aware of all of them on a conscious level, but still, regardless of any feelings that arise towards said anime characters, I still maintain enough of a grip on consensus reality to recognize that these characters are not, in fact, ‘real’.

But… is that true?

Yes. And no. Depends on what ‘real’ means, doesn’t it?

Were any of the After-school Tea Time band members, depicted in the anime K-On!, actual human beings that at any point actually lived, breathed, spoke, danced, sang, played? No. In that sense, they are not real. Not in the way that, say, Abraham Lincoln was real.

Um… Lincoln was real, wasn’t he?

Well of course he was, my dear Mythical Reader! There are plenty of historical reports of his existence, written records, newspaper accounts of his election to U.S. President, his conduct of the War of Northern Aggression, he’s on the U.S. penny — heck, there are even some of the first photographs of the man! Of course he was real.

Of course.

I mean, it couldn’t possibly all be a ruse, started long ago as a joke by drunken historians to see if they could pull a prank on all the world by making up a completely false person — a completely false U.S. President, at that! A ruse that included actors portraying the false man in all those photos, faked newspaper articles, faked Congressional records, etc. A ruse that worked so well that others not in on the joke took the idea of the man and ran with it, creating even more evidence of “his” existence, writing books about what the false man did, pontificating upon his faked actions during a faked war, even carving his false face into the sides of mountains. The idea is absurd. Couldn’t happen. Balderdash.

I said that Philosophy 101 class was a bad idea. Because I realize that I don’t know if Abraham Lincoln was ever real. I wasn’t there; I never met the man. It could all be fake. And here’s the rub: I can’t prove, absolutely, that it isn’t.

Now while I admit I am quite mad, I’m not completely insane yet, so I recognize that probably Abraham Lincoln did in fact exist. The odds favor it. That’s where I’d put my bet. But I can’t prove it absolutely. (Of course, you read a bit of Hume and you realize you can’t absolutely prove much of anything, but let’s not go all the way down that rabbit hole.)

But I don’t know that the K-On girls didn’t exist, either. Can’t prove it. Maybe they did exist. Perhaps the original author of the manga knew the girls, or girls like them; used them as “inspiration”… or all those things depicted in the stories actually did happen and he just wrote it down and lied about it being made-up. I don’t know. I wasn’t there.

Maybe the real, live, actual girls sued the manga author for appropriating their life stories, but there was an out-of-court settlement in order to hush everything up. They’re getting a cut of all that royalty money. Living happily, rocking out, as it were. I don’t know. Neither do you.

Again, it’s probably not true. It’s far more probable that the K-On girls are just fiction. Never existed. Not real. Probably.

But then, I have pictures of the K-On girls on my walls. I do not have pictures of Abraham Lincoln on my walls.

Which is more real, for me?

In one sense, they’re equally real: neither one exists. Lincoln presumably did exist, but does not any longer, He’s dead. Mugi-chan (honored be her name) also does not exist. Never was alive. Presumably.

Does it matter? I mean, is former existence a bigger thing — a “realer” thing — than never existing?

Do you believe in God, ye Mythical Reader? (yes, we’re off on a tangent, here we go… wheeeee!)

My standard, flippant remark when asked if I believe in God is to ask which one they’re referring to. This is a conversational gambit on my part to try to escape the line of questioning altogether, but is also to acknowledge that whatever God you refer to, there are plenty of people who will insist that He (or She or It) is “real”, and plenty of people who will insist that He (or She or It) is not “real”. I don’t know. I wasn’t there.

But I also don’t think it matters. When there are millions or billions of people who damn well do believe in a God, then you have to deal with the fact of their belief, regardless of your opinion on whether they’re actually correct or not. And whatever culture you find yourself stuck in, it has been shaped by the beliefs of those (supposedly) previously existing people, and what they did, and how they lived, blah blah boring blah. Just like, even if Lincoln’s existence was a clever ruse, as far as I can tell lots of people believe he existed, and that he did certain things, and that he affected history, blah blah also boring blah.

I mean, Lincoln’s existence is like a stone in a pond, and the ripples are still going. Believers in a (or many) God(s), through their belief — regardless of whether their God actually exists — still cause ripples in the pond. It still affects (supposedly) real people in the (supposedly) real world.

The K-On girls also cause ripples in the pond. This (after all that blathering) is how I think they are, actually, in some sense, real. Because they have effected (supposedly) real people in the (supposedly) real world.

Not to the extent that God or the belief in Him (Her It) does, of course. Not to the extent that Lincoln did, of course. But it’s not nothing.

And I don’t mean just in the materialistic way of posters being made (trees cut to make them; oil pumped to make the ink to print them), or songs produced (plastic made for the CDs, people made happier by listening to the songs, etc.) Those are “real” world effects. But although this is a more personal effect, it’s also a more intense one.

Let me tell you a story. Sadly it’s not one that puts your Mad Admin in a very good light.

K-On made me buy a keyboard. Musical keyboard, not computer. And try to learn to play it.

It wasn’t just K-On, let me hasten to assure you. From a very very young age, I have more often than not made motions with my fingers akin to those of a piano player, while I listen to music. I don’t know when I started that habit; it predates my first memories, as far as I know. I have always wondered if I could have been a decent piano player if I could have had lessons as a child, which of course was not possible due to parental lack of money for a thing as inconsequential as that. Still, I have wondered about that, about whether I could have learned to play.

And after watching K-On, with Mugi being my favorite character, and having the habit of thumping my fingers to the music… I decided it was time I actually tried. So I got a keyboard, and tried to learn to play.

I learned indeed. I learned that I can’t play. That I don’t actually want to play. As it turns out, I have neither the time nor the inclination to learn, and as it also turns out, I’m okay with that. So I gave the keyboard away.

But I was changed. I learned something about myself, and my behavior has changed. Because, in part, of dear Mugi-chan.

Regardless of whether she is real, my actions that occurred only because I watched her story, were real. (as much as anything is real)

So if something, or someone, is having real effects in the “real” world — is rippling the pond — isn’t that, in some sense, being real?

In some sense.

But here’s the deeper thing: I don’t give two shits in the shiola can for Lincoln. Whether there’s a God or not stopped being any concern of mine years ago. But I care, as much as I care about anything, about Mugi-chan. There are pictures of her on my wall; none of Lincoln; none of God.

Isn’t Mugi-chan more real to me, than Lincoln, or than God?

I don’t know. But I am here. Alas, I am but mad.

Perhaps ye Mythical Reader is starting to understand why.