Entering the Fifth Dimension (the Imagination) with Nietzsche, Don Quixote, Rod Serling, and Lawrence Krauss

One of the insights of Friedrich Nietzsche—at least in my reading of him—is that imagination is a dimension, apart from reality, that you can live in.

This, of course, is also Don Quixote. And Rod Serling in the Twilight Zone:

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination.

As physicist Lawrence Krauss once noted in a Cal Tech lecture, human beings have lived (imaginatively) in unreal dimensions from the beginning. Krauss offered this example: a paleolithic artifact of an animal that, obviously, does not really exist:

__________

So is living in reality overrated? Once you perceive that you are flung into a dimension in which God is dead (or silent), and your ultimate questions are unlikely ever to be answered in your lifetime, what should you do?

Isn’t it time to stop worrying about who or where you are really—what the truth is—and just, say, make lion-man totems from pieces of animal bone—or sleep with the pretty ballerina who happens to be in the same curious predicament as you?

Isn’t that the solution to the problem of life–to escape into the “fifth” dimension of the aesthetic or cultural imagination and live in a deception? Why not just create something or do something interesting regardless of what ultimate truth there might be “out there”?

If there is, after all, an ultimate truth (and I think that there is), maybe it’s more boring, less interesting, and less hopeful than the one that you can create in your imagination.

So here’s Nietzsche in a nutshell: reality is overrated. Why don’t you overgo it into the dimension of your own imagination and creative will?

I’m with Nietzsche. If God is dead (or silent), what makes reality more important or real to live in than the imagination?

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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7 Responses to Entering the Fifth Dimension (the Imagination) with Nietzsche, Don Quixote, Rod Serling, and Lawrence Krauss

  1. TomH says:

    Wow, someone else is looking at imagination as a kind of space, which has many more productions than our own space. I’m getting all mathematical here. Scientific theories may have little connection to reality in some respects and may not be accurate reflections of physical processes. However, they are still productions of imagination. I guess that the same could go for science fiction and pseudo-histories. Imagination is perhaps richer than reality, in some ways. Of course, sometimes our technology and understanding may benefit more from examining reality than from exercising our imagination. Sometimes reality may be more surprising than fiction or imagination. Einstein was more interested in exercising his mathematical imagination, though, so science isn’t merely about examining nature.

  2. santitafarella says:

    Tom:

    I think that the imagination is where Nietzsche drives atheism up against a moral impasse. If there is no purpose to the universe, then quite literally anything that we wish to make of the raw material of our contingent existences is up to us. Atheism need not lead to rational, science oriented, people. It might just as well lead to Hegelian tyrants, clowns, or poets. The field is completely, dizzyingly open. No taboos. Only the imagination. It’s not that religion can’t inform us of what to do. Science can’t either. That’s a scary place to be. People want some basis for behavior, some method, some formula outside of themselves. Nietzsche says, in essence, don’t put a scavenger—science, religion, ethical prohibition—ahead of your eagle (your imagination and will).

    —Santi

  3. Noogah says:

    Perhaps you should simply consider the possibility that God is neither dead nor silent.

  4. Josh W says:

    There’s a saying from Iain Banks culture novels, which I will mercilessly paraphrase:

    You may spend most of your time in infinite fun space, but never forget where you left your off switch.

    In other words, ethics, science, all the rest, have a fundamental pragmatic role even if they aren’t fun, because living with people stops you suddenly being jolted from your dreams by sudden death.

    Nietzsche’s aspirations only work when scarcity and necessity has been destroyed, in other words when you live in the total aristocratic luxury of self-sufficient Godhood. In any other situation you are dependent on others, and the slave mentality he derides will become vital at various points in your life, as your life becomes dependent on others. Or at least a mentality something like it will. There are ways to engage with reality that are servile in a protagonistic, even subversive manner, by undercutting someone via directing the desires that he is a slave to. Fitting yourself into the structures by which he creates his world, and so steering it. You will literally be serving them, but also getting what you want.

    In that pairing, and the gap between those two perspectives, you can see the relationship between artists and engineers the world over!

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