Savoring all ‘beyond belief’

By Sarah Allen - [email protected]

“We live in a world where the real and the unreal live side by side, where substance is disguised as illusion, and the only explanations are unexplainable.”

So begins the late ‘90s TV show “Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction,” which challenged its viewers to separate fantasy from reality in five logic-defying tales during each of its episodes.

As a kid, I couldn’t watch that show. Many of the stories were downright chilling, and my very active imagination didn’t need any help conjuring ghosts or other terrors when I went to bed at night.

Now, however, I’ve rediscovered the show. And, even though it still gives me chills, I can’t help gobbling up each episode like they’re potato chips.

And, I’m quite proud to say, the night before writing this column, I was five-for-five when picking “fact or fiction.” (Wish me luck on tonight’s episode.)

Because trying to decipher between the two is usually a challenge – and I don’t just mean in the show.

After all, the real and the unreal really do live side by side. And, in college, I had a chance to see how similar those two really are.

I was taking an acting class, for no other reason than “just because.” For one assignment, we had to tell the class a story which contained two truths and one lie.

The trick was to try and act so convincingly that no one could tell which was which. For some people, it was easy, but for most, it was difficult.

When it was my turn, I shared a bit about my trip to New York City as a high school senior. I discussed touring NBC studios, going to the top of the Empire State Building, and sitting four rows from the front at “Phantom of the Opera.”

So, which one was the lie? Any guesses?

Answer: We never visited the Empire State Building. (A shame, I know, but I did at least see it.)

I managed to fool a few people, but by the end, the class managed to reach a consensus on my Empire State Building lie. (Though being a bad liar is actually a good thing, right?)

But they only reached their answer after quite a bit of debate. Because you never can tell…

After all, the dichotomy between reality and fantasy is an underlying part of our existence, breathing life into our imaginations and our fears.

Whether believer or skeptic, there are some things in this world that don’t quite make sense.

Is every bump in the night a ghost? Every light in the sky a UFO?

No, of course not. But are there some things that, try as we might, we can’t quite explain as a tree scratching the window, or a satellite orbiting above our heads?

I think so. And I also think that is the most brilliant thing about our world.

We settle into the gray area between fact and fiction like it’s a favorite armchair. And from it, we find all the cornerstones that make our lives worth living: wonder and awe; faith and hope; stories and what-ifs.

So, in that spirit, how about we try one more experiment? Can you spot the fiction here?

• I tried escargot (snails) a few years ago while at the Taste of Cincinnati.

• I learned how to ice skate from my dad, who used to play hockey, when I was 7.

• I took ballet classes for five years, and during that time I also took jazz and tap classes.

Got your guess?

Good, now here’s the real question: Will I tell you?

After all, like I said earlier, the often flimsy line between imagination and reality is the real treasure; it is what keeps us wondering and exploring. So, perhaps, I should keep the answer a secret…

Nah, I’m not that mean. Here’s the lie: I can’t ice skate (though my dad really did used to play hockey).

Did you get it right? If so, congrats.

If not, that’s ok. As French writer Antoine de Rivarol once said, “It is the dim haze of mystery that adds enchantment to pursuit.”

Reach Sarah Allen at 937-393-3456, ext. 1680, or on Twitter @SarahAllenHTG.

By Sarah Allen

[email protected]