“Pfft. That’s not believable.”
I have found myself saying this during a movie or play that just didn’t ring true. And if we’re honest with ourselves, at the beginning of ANY performance we could cross our arms and furrow our brows in absolute refusal to believe the artists’ portrayals. What a loss this would be.
In cinema, performing arts and literature, willful suspension of disbelief describes the cooperation between the artist and the audience to create believability in what is presented. The artist does her work to create plot, characters and dialogue which resonate with the truth of the world they author. The audience is left to connect the dots which, if it they are in close enough alignment with each other, is done cheerfully and voluntarily.
Writer Samuel Taylor Coleridge coined the phrase in order to re-introduce poetry and fantasy to 19th century readers whose sensibilities no longer found stories of magic and sorcery true to life. He suggested that infusing human interest and “a semblance of truth” into a fantastic tale would allow readers to suspend judgement of its plausibility.
As helpful as this theory may be toward the arts, it is also of use for life in general. Disbelief can plague us daily like the dust cloud surrounding Pig-Pen. When we are faced with decisions in life, we all too often succumb to the billowing cloud of disbelief reminding us of our past failures we feel doomed to repeat. Possibilities become implausible and we no longer allow ourselves to believe in magic.
But isn’t there a kernel of something deep inside of us that yearns to believe? A little trapeze artist within tired of standing on the platform; begging for a simple net he can twist and twirl above? Just a momentary suspension may give him the window he needs to dazzle and amaze.
Launching a new business calls for this suspension. So does admitting you love someone, as does ascribing to religious faith.
What disbelief do you need to suspend? Let’s not forget an operative word… willing. Are you willing to suspend your disbelief? Share it with others. You might be surprised how many are more than willing to do the same along with you.