As clever as it is, Mark Twain's blunt materialistic quote "Buy land—they're not making any more of it” fails to take into account the imaginary worlds that people are so heavily invested in. The process of culture is in many ways the construction of worlds, unreal as well as the one we think of as real. Each culture is in effect the collective, time-binded creation of it's inhabitants. Just one possible configuration out of endless possibilities.
In contemporary American culture I would argue that the unreal supercedes the real in many ways. The unreal people and places generated from celebrity culture, the entertainment industry and the arts occupy a powerful place in peoples minds, shaping the culture at large and shared, collective values. For many I suspect that the number of relationships they have with fictitious people and places far outnumber the "real" ones in their lives.
Illustrating my point, this week Forbes published the "Fictional 15", their annual ranking of the 15 richest fictional people. They apparently take this quiet seriously, evaluating carefully the factors that would determine each's wealth. "Topping the list this year is newcomer Carlisle Cullen, patriarch of the Cullen coven of vampires in the Twilight series of novels. Cullen, age 370, has accumulated a fortune of $34.1 billion--much of it from long-term investments made with the aid of his adopted daughter Alice, who picks stocks based on her ability to see into the future. "
The lists of Fictional Companies and Fictional Cities & Towns (Wikipedia) are both engrossing and fascinating to peruse, particularly the companies. The list of cities and towns fails to mention Springfield (The Simpsons) and Hazzard County. Clearly this entry needs more development.
Related Sherman Foundation Posts:
Sculpture, Imaginary Worlds and Home Exercise Equipment.
Infantilizing Reality with Imaginary Worlds.
On a tangential note, this week I can across the Munchausen Syndrome. "Munchausen syndrome is a type of factitious disorder, or mental illness, in which a person repeatedly acts as if he or she has a physical or mental disorder when, in truth, they have caused the symptoms. People with factitious disorders act this way because of an inner need to be seen as ill or injured, not to achieve a concrete benefit, such as financial gain. They are even willing to undergo painful or risky tests and operations in order to get the sympathy and special attention given to people who are truly ill. Munchausen syndrome is a mental illness associated with severe emotional difficulties."