Reality in the modern age is glorified.
The ‘life is tough, suck it up’ mentality is everywhere. Daydreaming is frowned upon in schools. People are scrambling to gain degrees in the STEM fields while the arts degrees are jeered with an accompaniment of distasteful unemployment jokes. Logic and hard skills are valued over creativity and soft skills. Everyday, politics, wars, gang violence and rape cases are splashed across the front pages. There are fewer fantasy novels and movies rising the ranks in popularity, apart from the Harry Potter series. And ‘down-to-earth’ is the ultimate compliment.
But, hey, after all, we’ve got to be grownup now, don’t we? I mean, fantasy and imaginary worlds are suitable for kids. But you’re an adult. You’ve got bills. You’ve got to worry about money and employment and all that fun stuff. You’ve got to stick your head out of those clouds, baby. Got to do this, got to do that. You should read books about the true pith of life – relationships, breakups, death, love. You must watch the news in order to be a dignified and well-informed citizen. Fill in tax forms. Go to the grocers. Learn how to drive. Open a bank account. Got a retirement plan? Good, make sure you make that electronic number in the bank database system go up. Flying gremlins on a cereal box? How silly. Little Timothy would like that.
All of those grownup tasks are important. But is it wrong to hate and even ignore reality? What’s wrong with living inside one’s head?
Oh, plenty, you might say. Those people don’t understand. Life is tough. Everyone needs money. It’s not going to fall out of the sky like magic! You’ve got to do these things, see, to survive in the world. And thinking about things which add nothing to the quality of your life – imagining what it would be a like to be a butterfly or sleep on the clouds or what would happen if suddenly all the clocks in the world stopped – is useless. You need to think about more important things. Worry. Stress. Yes, escape into books and movies for a little while, but you must come back to reality and face the ugly truths.
See, that might work for some people. In fact, most people do inhabit reality for the majority of their lives. But there are others who can’t live like this. Others who ignore reality for the sake of their sanity. Others who wish for magic. Others who have the quirkiest thoughts throughout the day and try to hold back giggles of delight out of fear of being judged (Ahem. Can you not read?We ordered stony, serious faces, thank you very much). Others who sit on the train and stare at the sullen faces of other participants of the rat race and dream of something more.
They could be anyone in your daily lives. That coworker who stands, staring off into space, at the water kiosk and holding up the line, much to the chagrin of disgruntled and thirsty employees. That girl who mumbles to herself and takes an eternity to walk to school because she is so distracted by the butterflies and bees and flowers and the sky and her own thoughts. That secretary who doodles stories on her sticky notes. It might even be you. Such people are dreamers, who will be chased after all their lives by friends and teachers and parents and employers and the media, all of them flourishing manacles and desiring to bound them to the earth.
But I honestly think there is nothing wrong with living inside your head most of the time. Sure, you may appear rather eccentric and aloof. You may come across as being snobbish or ditzy or absentminded or scatterbrained. You may not be the most ideal employee. You may forget your friend’s birthday. Your friends may hate you. Your family may humour you. But you’ve got that magic, shimmering world inside your skull. It’s beautiful, it’s malleable. It’s escapism at its most portable.
I think some of the greatest inventors, thinkers, do-gooders, writers, singers and artists became what they were and achieved what they did because they denied their current reality and strived towards the fantasy inside their head. I think that, though a dose of realism is necessary, being too realistic curtails one’s dreams, throws up rigid barriers in one’s path. I think that to dream, to imagine, to fantasize, all of which are frowned upon in our rock-hard, left-brain society of skyscrapers and banks and institutions and politicians and accountants and bankers and doctors and lawyers and carpenters and so on, is a actually a good thing, because it often means you believe anything can happen and that you can do anything.
Sure, living up there in that airy-fairy world means you may forget your keys and lose important documents now and then. Your house may look like it’s been hit by a tornado most of the time and you may not be the spouse or friend of the week.
But all that doesn’t matter. Because these bursts of magic inside your mind are precious. You know they are. They make you happy. They make you smile. They make you create things that might one day make others happy and smile. And the world needs that. More than you can ever imagine.
So, feel free to dream.
We have enough miserable people living in reality as it is.