Life in God’s Collection of Action Figures

Okay, this is going to be a little out-there, so bear with me.

I’m a big science fiction fan and my favourite author in thef whole world is a guy named Philip K. Dick. He’s long deceased now, but his work continues to influence contemporary sci-fi and he has a pretty exhaustive list of novels and short-stories that have been turned into major motion pictures. I bring up Philip K. Dick because he had a trope running through some of his work called “Perky Pat” that may have influenced me pretty heavily as I developed a personal understanding of the philosophy that John Amos Comenius and   Augustine of Hippo impart to us, as covered in our class. I am going to explain Perky Pat, and then relate it back to Comenius and Augustine. Here goes!

Perky Pat was an analogue for Mattel’s Barbie in Philip K. Dick’s writings. It is pretty obvious, and a bit hilarious, that Dick had some young daughters running around his home during the days of his Perky Pat writings. In a nut shell, Dick had created a somewhat dystopic future that was often times filled with people being sent to colonies on Mars, or other planets, where they would live profoundly isolated and depressed lives. They were sent to these planets after a thermo-nuclear war render much of Earth unliveable. In one of the stories, an alien hallucinogenic drug from space called Can-D is illegally trafficked down to the colonies that allows for an escapist experience from the depressing emptiness the settlers face day-in and day-out. Now, here’s where things get weird. The settlers would chew Can-D and play with the Barbie-esque dolls and doll sets. However, the hallucinogen would do much more than sustain hallucinations, it would transport the ‘players’ into another spiritual plain where they would inhabit the dolls and doll sets being played with. The players would then, themselves, become Perky Pat or her love interest Walt and exist in the world of the play set. They would sleep in the little pink Perky Pat [Barbie] apartment, they would drive the pink Perky Pat [Barbie] convertible, they would wear the tiny Perky Pat [Barbie] outfits and use the tiny accessories as the dolls would use them. While they cannot afford the luxuries for themselves, they can afford the tiny replicas of luxuries for their Perky Pat collection, and then can then experience the luxuries as Perky Pat. While engaged in the activity, the lived experience being acted out with Perky Pat is the lived experience for the players in an ultimate form of escapism for isolated settlers living in profoundly depressed circumstances.

So, what has a science fiction novel about grown adults playing with Barbie on distant planets while doing drugs have to do with Comenius’ philosophy? I’ve gotta run to class, so I’ll post more next time!

– nathan


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