We can always pretend. Pretending is cool, it’s part of playing. Make believe things we dream up can be sweeter than real ones. Pretending is fun, unless it turns into a somersault try that falls flat and leaves the attempter in a body cast. Then it becomes hard, and probably unhealthy, to pretend nothing harmful is at work.
Pretending, I should say, is not the same as believing that a dream, worked towards steadily and at times inspiredly, can be made real, in spite of the odds against it.
Let us stipulate, for purposes of this post, that pretending is different than pursuing a dream, even if that dream is extremely unlikely ever to become a reality. Pretending is knowing the thing can never be real, and acting as though it’s real anyway. It can be tricky to tell the difference, sometimes, but pretend is make believe, based only on something better that we’d rather see than the thing in front of us.
A wise man said the greatest miracle of human existence is that we all carry on like we’re never going to die. This is a kind of pretending most of us do much of the time. Not only is every one of us, merely by taking breath, getting ready to die, but every creature any one of us loves or will ever love — their death is a certainty. We ignore this, or pretend it’s not so, because to have life’s evanescence before us at all times would make life too painfully sad to endure. We live in spite of the certainty of death and our lives are given a certain urgency by the intermittent knowledge that we are hanging here by spider webs, taking part in this miraculous and fleeting world at the whim of fate.
We might often do better to pretend we don’t see certain things. But there is a limit.
When a pattern emerges, becomes predictable, harmful, hard to ignore– pretending it is not so can become difficult. It can also be unhealthy.
“Oh… here we go…” groans the wary polemicist.
I say again — we can pretend the first time that we did not hear the hurtful words, the ringing unsympathy, the lack of generosity. It might help to ignore something ugly the first time. It might have just been a bad moment, better to let it pass. We can pretend a second time, too, twice could just be a coincidence. But the limit eventually comes.
“It comes to you, oh, judgmental and punitive one,” says the reflexive arguer.
It comes to every one, my friend. It comes when the limit of patience and ability to pretend is reached. It comes when the sore nerve is probed again, seemingly for no reason but to get the reaction. To pretend the sore nerve has not been probed again? To what purpose?