One of the scariest parts of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol was the revelation of the children; Ignorance and Want. It’s one of those scenes which came back to haunt me; again and again over the years. The meaning of that scene sank in, bit by bit.
Ignorance can be be terrying. Whether I’m on the receiving end of it or feeling it. Trying to get someone to understand when they simply cannot see or connect with what I’m saying. Not understanding what someone else says, especially when they toss out words with a cliquish casualness, excluding me.
Both situations make me feel alone, apart from everyone else. They make me want to understand, to feel less isolated.
Want can be many things. It’s easy for me to associate it with desire, something which feels a little more fun, more sensual. Not quite the raw, anguished hunger want can be.
It was easy for me to link ignorance to want. Wanting to be understood. Wanting to understand. Feeling alone, even when I’m with other people, separated from them by ignorance.
Am I truly alone? How many other people feel the sting of not being understood? How many others feel alienated by an understanding which excludes them?
Sometimes we find each other. The misunderstood. Those who do not understood. We find each other, soothe each other’s hurts, or rage against the one who hurt us.
This can comfort us. This can be terrifying when others band against us.
Sometimes we try to explain to the ones who don’t understand. It can be exhausting, doing this again and again. Some of the questions I’m asked hurt. I remind myself that too often, I’m the one who’s ignorant. I’m the one who wants to understand. I remind myself to be patient, for I’m really hoping other people will be patient with me when I’m asking the questions.
It can take every bit of courage to ask. To expose myself as being ignorant. Sometimes it’s easier to just sneak away and look something up. Try to figure out the answers on my own.
The quest for knowledge, the struggle against Ignorance and Want is fuel for many a story. Sometimes it’s easier to put them into a story, to try to express this struggle in fiction. To communicate it in a story, show those caught in this struggle that they’re not alone.
It fascinates me that they became actual characters in a story. Even if they had a very short role. Even if they didn’t speak.
This made me realize just what you can do with speculative fiction. Conditions we struggle with can become characters themselves.
Just think about it.