catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 6, Num 9 :: 2007.05.04 — 2007.05.18


Imaginative fancy and innocuous fantasy

The quotidian queries of the fantastical

Life often has us in chains, enslaved to the status quo. From the buzzing tick of the cubicle clock to the muffled chaos of the highway commute we’re often trapped within the estate of our once innocent ambitions. How often have we been intoxicated with the notion that if we had this or that we would be content? Hope can feel like a salvation of sorts, but often becomes villain as we often find ourselves always looking for the greener grass. Is it because our lives are so engorged with notions of fantasy that we can’t tell the difference between dreams and reality?

Fantasy means many things to many people. For some, fantasy is integrally related to literary form and the works of scholars like J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. For others, it’s related to creating the ideal reality, such as a scene in Stephen Frears’ High Fidelity, which highlights Rob Gordon (John Cusack) envisioning his ultimate response to his ex-girlfriend’s trendy new-age monthly flavor, Ian, via three hilarious scenarios. In one, he verbally berates Ian with fearless audacity. In the next, he exemplifies his physical prowess and drives Ian to fearful retreat. In the last, we find that a telephone and—better yet—a portable air-conditioner unit can be fine weapons. Of course none actually take place, but it’s a riot. It conveys that we long for something more, for the ability to say what we most want to say. For still others, fantasy might manifest itself in their pubescent genesis and evolution as the kick drum thumps of The Cars’ “Moving In Stereo” serves as processional to Phoebe Cates’ slow motion exit from the swimming pool in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Regardless of your poison, fantasy seems to involve escape. For some this definition is either insufficient or insulting, but practically speaking practically, fantasy is our Tonto or Silver, the essential side-kick to our Lone-Ranger life. In other words, we need it.

Our music, our poetry, our movies and comics, our politics, our protest represent a kind of hope. It’s a hope for release from mediocrity, an opportunity to find solace and to fill the gaps of our unrealized ambitions. It’s our chance to laugh. It’s our chance to cry. It is our essential and innate effort to make sense of life. For when we find ourselves barren and parched, we often create worlds that do not exist but are residually intertwined to our real world. And so we often have trouble differentiating (in our heart’s mind and not necessarily literally) our dreams from our reality. These worlds can be so closely related to our worlds both in the players and the settings that we associate them with reality.

When I want to re-energize or recover from a sense of being drained I often escape into movies. It’s not JUST escape. I enjoy them. I enjoy stories. For me, movies are a language of sorts. It’s a language I spoke with my father growing up, a way that we could bond and connect without having to always speak. We could laugh at the same joke or perhaps catch a glimpse of one another during a climactic scene, like in a Sergio Leone spaghetti western epic. For others, it’s not the movies, but their John Grisham novels, their collection of DC Comics or Marvel, Sports and Fitness, solitude. We all seem to need that retreat of sorts to step back from our life and attempt to make sense of it either by rectifying the past or by imagining the possibilities of our future, for good, bad, or ugly. The results and consequences of such fantasy are far and wide different and circumstantially dependant. Few if any can see the heart and its intentions, though we know our own well enough to know where we might incline.

In many respects our fantasy is not only innocent but necessary. I challenge you to find a moment in your life when fantasy has not served as friend to you or circumstance. Perhaps a moment of sheer agony and angst has found temporary relief in the imaginative fancy or innocuous fantasy of escapist relief. Yet, I also entertain the notion that such have also become not so friendly. They keep us from engaging ourselves and the realities of life’s challenges by eluding true reflection and seeking to make change. A place that often is intended for temporary visit ends up becoming home, like a sketchy hostel.

Again, I’m not suggesting that such fantasy is always healthy. I think there’s a point at which we must ask ourselves when our illusions begin to breed delusion. Movies are unique here. This is what the movies are essentially, vast illusions. Thousands of single frames running together to convey through the cinematic convention of editing and lighting and the various elements of character and story, at 24 frames per second, one overarching narrative. They allow us to live out our lives vicariously, again for good, bad, or ugly. Yet the joy and the relief often lies in the simple reality that we are able to play, to envision possibilities. Euripides once noted that “few have greater riches than the joy that comes to us in visions, in dreams which nobody can take away.” Not attempting to be too literal here, these are the intangibles that are not susceptible to physical theft or scoundrel—perhaps the scoundrel of self but the stories carry with us.

For many, fantasies merely associated with lust and sexual pleasure, but it must not be bound to such minimal interpretation. We are our greatest criticisms. Just circle a church pot-luck for conversations about our popular culture, this or that movie or political scandal in the local gazette. We don’t have to look far to see our own hypocrisies, to see our true nature. We’re fabulous deceivers of who we truly are at our core. We compartmentalize our lives’ choices and differentiate our good from our bad, on our own terms. The villains and vixens which live at the bottom of our television tickers and in the bold headlines of our papers are not us. We are impenetrable. Immune! Alas, we are ultimately employing, perhaps without conscience, our own delusional fantasy.

I employ the reflection that our attempt to escape and create imagined worlds is our inherent nature calling out for understanding. Like Jason Bourne, we naturally resort to our programmable abilities. It is part of who we are but it certainly does not define all of who we are. When we do escape, we discover we must consider where there is a ‘line’ and, if we cross it, how we return.

Fantasy plays daily roles: the ritual of the child before bedtime, or teen to churning mp3 player, or adult to novel or nap.  We’re bound by our inherent ability to fantasize. The polls will vary though. Nathaniel Hawthorne stated it this way, “Let us acknowledge it wiser, if not more sagacious, to follow out one’s day-dream to its natural consummation, although if the vision have been worth the having, it is certain never to be consummated otherwise than by a failure.” Or Perhaps Eric Hoffer’s thought in the Passionate State of Mind would offer something different, “We do not really feel grateful toward those who make our dreams come true; they ruin our dreams.” In other words, our dreams can never truly become reality. There will always be some sort of deficiency between what we imagine and what actually happens. If anything, fantasy plays out humanity’s attempt to makes sense of life through its own creations. We create incessantly. Our lives are an omnibus of creations, an origami of purpose and meaning. At times our fantasy serves as a great expose of who we truly are, what we value most, and how we see ourselves in this grand cosmos. Regardless of where we might fall, it can be a meaningful reflection to assess the essence of our dreams and our realities and how we utilize fantasy in our daily lives to cope and replenish. As has been said, “Sanity is madness put to good uses; waking life is a dream controlled.” We, enamored as such in the spirit of Michael Ende’s Fantastica in the Neverending Story, find ourselves losing ourselves to find ourselves.

In the most simple of reflections, we just want to understand, to see life through a clear lens. I think of the ole classic hip-hop utterances of Arrested Development in their song “Tennessee”:

Lord I’ve really been real stressed. Down and out, losin’ ground…I don’t know where I can go to get these ghosts out of my skull…I never at once felt so alone. I know you’re supposed to be my steering wheel, not just my spare tire. But Lord I ask you to be my guiding force and truth…Take me to another place. Take me to another land. Make me forget all that hurts me. Let me understand your plan.

In this case, the other place is Tennessee, yet for many of us we find our port somewhere in the vastness of the ocean of fantasy and IT IS GOOD

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