BY alexa theodoropoulos

The following prose contains two block excerpts from Miguel Syjuco’s Ilustrado. What follows is a rotating
meditation on the limits of the human propensity to create “characters.”

            As if real-life people were too nebulous, too private and unreal for us to understand. We liked to
            believe there is an alternate world, a better world, populated entirely by characters created by the
            yearnings of humanity—governing and inspiring themselves with all the lucidity with which we
            rendered them. We posited such a world to be an afterlife for the monumentally great and flawed
            men and women of history, because Julius Caesar is as real to us as Holden Caulfield, Pol Pot is
            alive as Julius Iscariot (Syjuco 31)


          Upon learning that any extant work of art is based on a real-life counterpart, its value seems to
amplify across terrestrial boundaries. However, in the translation between reality and page, an indispensable
soul is allegedly lost.
          I find this so enthralling, and accurate, because even writers, those who fabricate fictional
characters, are merely mortal. A mortal lacks the pansophy to craft the infinite conscience of another mortal.
Fictional characters, even when complex and flawed, are hitherto rudimentary when compared to their
real-life counterparts. The virtues and vices of humanity are riddled with inexplicable inconsistencies that
cannot be written, fabricated, or captivated by a mortal that is menaced by the same anthropoid repugnance.
          A microcosm contains the prefix “micro” for a reason. A smaller world is a simpler world. A sublunary
society is suburban, yet prodigiously more labyrinthine than any anthropogenic composition.
          Take simulations. Humans can create virtual experiences, other lives, if you will. However, a human
is just a human. A human cannot create another human. Every simulation we create, every story we write, is
a simplified version of our present reality. These stories get smaller, and smaller, and smaller, until they are
no more than the idealistic gems of our imaginations. That is why we prize fictional characters. That is why
humans are enthralled by stories. That is why we are in love with the fabled fanaticism of fiction.
          Humans wrap themselves in the righteousness of substantive intellect, stripping themselves down to
reveal their naked ambition, stripping and straining to acknowledge the strenuous limits of a mortal
          We fabricate fictions for comfort because we cease to understand the fumbling, obfuscating nuance
that exists in other people. Convolution surrounds and penetrates us. We lack the omniscience to
understand it...

we take
the easy way

“Still, I could not understand why the world chose to take the easy way out: to write him off simply, then go
home to watch TV shows with complicated plots. Maybe that’s the habit of our age” (Syjuco 18).