Experience and Imagination

It is always a pub. There is always loud music. You have to speak a little louder to make yourself heard. And when you are the listener- you have to fill the gaps with your own imagination and possibly, your estimate of what the other would say. Did I say imagination and estimate? Maybe it is just prejudice?

“Tipsy, what do you miss? What would you rather do? What have you not done in a while?,” said Frank obviously hoping Tipsy would ask him the same question in return.
But Tipsy chose not to. She wanted to think about the question. She wanted to think about what would she rather be doing than sitting here. But wasn’t it disrespectful to Frank, to what they had here? But that should not matter. Frank would not mind. He was Frank.

“I miss being on a beach, and not having a care in the world, ” Tipsy said matter of factly.

“Really? Were you ever on a beach with not a care in the world? Is that even possible?”

“It is not necessary for something to have happened for me to miss it. Those who miss only the things that have happened suffer from a serious lack of imagination”

“That’s beautiful Tipsy. I love you for that. I love you for being like me. But that is restrictive and so I must say - isn’t imagination just a weak substitute for experience? Would you need so much imagination if your experience was really rich?” said Frank, intent on starting an argument that he wanted to lose.

“How can you say that you love me and then not even give me a moment to be happy about it? And how can you not see that your argument has a dual - that would you need so much experience if you had a rich imagination, ” Tipsy said softly.

The writer hoped, at this stage, that the intelligent reader would combine Frank and Tipsy’s argument to arrive at an eclectic mix of imagination and experience with the importance of each decided by the individual preferences.

“Imagination is no substitute for Experience,” said Frank - fighting a losing battle.

Tipsy almost blurted out the obvious. Then she almost said “Should I state the obvious?”. But then she came up with the best strategy and said nothing. She smiled.

The writer was slightly disappointed at this stage, for neither Frank nor Tipsy had taken the slightest note of his interference. So he got desperate. And he called upon the great writers that had lived and summoned the help of one Somerset Maugham who obliged by pontificating on the topic of imagination and experience.

Somerset Maugham: “The extent of their experience is pleasantly balanced by the fertility of their imagination.”
Frank was mesmerized by Tipsy which made the writer uncomfortable as this was a fresh setback to his attempts at insinuating his existence into this duo’s dialogue.

The reader,however, was mesmerized by Somerset Maugham which, again, made the writer uncomfortable because he did not have anything remotely profound to say about the subject of imagination and experience.

And, so the subject was abandoned.

“Why does the mundane exist? What purpose does it serve? What can every day not be different from the other?” said Tipsy overwhelmed by ennui.

“If every day were different would it not become mundane?” Frank was in a mood to play the devil’s advocate, to contradict anything she said. He also had just lost an argument and wanted to lose another one. The writer though Frank was the weaker one and wanted to get some reaction out of him. The writer was insecure and almost jealous of the lives of his characters.

Tipsy had a vision of car at rest. It is boring. Then the car starts moving. It travels at constant speed. It is boring again. The speed increases but settles at a high speed. It is boring again. The car keeps accelerating. The acceleration is a constant. It is boring again. There is no escape.

The writer, at this moment, must pause to consider several mathematical formulations of the problem at hand and reminds himself of the beauty of the derivative of the exponential. The readers, not many of whom truly exist, may choose to ignore this interlude. Or, the readers may choose to regard the writer as a pompous ass. In any case the writer will be gratified because in taking a stand the readers would have to, at least, exist which is no mean feat for the writer.

For Frank it was an argument. It was a dry discussion. For Tipsy it was a matter of an interesting life or a boring life. She could sense it - the next question that would come up - it would not be a step forward. It would go one step back. And Frank said it.

“Why must life be interesting?” asked Frank, because he wanted to have an interesting discussion.

“Because, when we have had our dinner and are not yet ready to sleep - we must amuse ourselves.” because she had not yet had her dinner and she was not yet ready to sleep.

“Why must we amuse ourselves?” said Frank - sounding like a naive AI program.

And at that moment, just when we are getting the reader slightly interested in these two experimental selves of the writer (who insists on provoking his own characters) - who should enter, but the waiter.

“Have you guys been waiting for me?” said the waiter, then paused for effect and some reaction. Then, seeing none he continued  - “Imagine that, me being called the waiter, and you waiting - ha ha ha !”  

Frank and Tipsy were impervious to the charms of the irresistible waiter. The waiter - however was not one to give up.

“See what I did there? Waiting. Waiter? Truly - you may not realize it - but word play is a sign of amazing intellect. While it takes a lot of learning to associate the word with its context  - it is an even more challenging process to unlearn the context and see words bereft of their context.”

“But, I do not expect you prejudiced people to really understand that. I don’t expect you to use your imagination to rise above your experience. So why don’t you just order your freaking fries and get it over with.”

“Yes”, said Frank caressing the menu - and reading like a nervous actor at a script reading session - “I would like to order some fries and chicken nuggets”

“Really, sir, is that all you can think of?”

“No, I would like to order a whole lot other dishes - but I don’t trust myself to pronounce those names”

“Sir, you must get a tutor - you clearly won’t be able to afford me but I could recommend an underling”

“Thanks, but there are a few other things I would like to try. But I don’t know whether I will like them or whether I will just miss an opportunity to eat something I know I like”

“That is the old exploration versus exploitation problem and there are several research papers I could point you to. Would it help if I got you printouts of those to help your decision? Or would you rather that I emailed them to you?”

“With an attitude like that do you ever get tipped?”

“Tipping is something I stand for, ” said the waiter. Then, paused for effect.

Frank had had enough. “I would like to talk to the manager,” said he.

“I would too, however he is much too busy. I will go and get your fries and nuggets” the waiter said and did nothing.

At this moment Tipsy intervened. “Dear waiter, please get us the said order and I apologize for the discourteousness of my friend.”

“You, ma’am are extremely intelligent” said the waiter remembering the old adage of complementing a beautiful woman for her intelligence and an intelligent woman for her beauty.

“However,” he continued “I cannot help but reserve my judgment on the quality of your choice of members of the opposite sex.” The waiter had not grasped the level of Tipsy’s intelligence. An intelligent woman does not expect much of the opposite sex having met with much disappointments.

The waiter left. And Frank was sad. He was sad and disappointed that Tipsy had been nice to the waiter who was not so nice to him. He thought he should say that. But that would be so much like a woman. He did not say anything. He sulked. That was even more like a woman.

“You are acting like a girl, ” said Tipsy.

“Why did you do that?” he asked.

“To prevent him from spitting in our food”

It all made sense to Frank now. That’s why we need to be nice to people. So that they don’t spit in our food. Behind our backs. That was the secret of the universe. Now they would be fed. But they will not be ready to sleep. And they will go back to the question of boredom. And they will not have an answer.

At this moment the writer summoned the writers that be and got this. When in doubt - quote Nietzsche.

Nietzsche: Against boredom even gods struggle in vain.

There was nothing further to be said on that.

The waiter arrived with their order. Tipsy looked at Frank, at the waiter and ignored the writer. Then, she said - “I would like to order some roasted chicken, some Biryani and some chicken curry”

Frank was aghast. “How can you order so much? How can you eat so much? It is not healthy.”

“Why should we not do what is not healthy? I am bored” said Tipsy.

Frank had no real answer. But he said - “ but that is against the survival instinct. Not eating healthy is against our instinct. It cannot be done therefore it should not be done.”

Tipsy looked at the writer. The writer, beaming at finally being acknowledged, helped her and gave her a quote.

“But I fear ennui will be as bad as a bad stomach - a great man once said, ” said Tipsy.

“Who said that- I bet he knew nothing about evolution?” asked Frank.

“Charles Darwin said that,” said Tipsy without the slightest arrogance that would have made her victory less glorious.

Frank hung his head as Maslow's pyramid fell to pieces all around him.

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