Archived 2-22-04

“Fantasy vs. Reality”

By Larry John

Is it more fun to live in Fantasyland or Realityland? The Buddha said (and I paraphrase for my own selfish purposes), “The problem with reality is that all life is suffering.” The Laughing Buddha said that in order to have what he called a “good life” you must have self-mastery, a happy demeanor, purposeful endeavor, a deep commitment to the welfare of others and enlightened awareness. How many out of five do you have? Interesting… but I digress. I think that in addition to the five items from the Laughing Buddha, there might be a sixth requirement. I think that you have got to have a “fantasy” or “dream.” Something you may never have, but something you would like to have and think about having.

Webster’s dictionary gives the definition of “fantasy” as, “the power or process of creating especially unrealistic or improbable mental images in response to psychological need.” I find that interesting. I have heard philosophers say that without a fantasy, man cannot be happy and is a miserable creature. That it is impossible for us to be happy if we don’t have a fantasy. In order to think about this “fantasy” thing the way I am beginning to think about it, we have got to get all of the synonyms out on the table that we might use in place of the word fantasy. We need to do this so we don’t get mixed up. A fantasy (at least for this discussion) is synonymous with a dream, an aspiration, a wish, a longing, an ambition, and a goal, just to name a few. They are all words representing what we want to happen (or think we want to happen) that hasn’t happened yet. But fantasy by any other name is still a fantasy. It is something we want, or think we need, or have hope of happening, or strive to have, or wish to have happen, or lust for, or set goals to someday achieve. However, unlike the philosophers who have said that they think in order for humans to be happy they MUST have a fantasy, I think that we are unhappy because of our fantasies. Having goals and ambitions and “wishing and hoping and praying and dreaming” are the very causes of our sadness and unhappiness. All  this longing for which we fantasize or dream of having or want to have happen, but we don’t have or it isn’t happening fast enough, is the very reason we can never be happy living in the present or in reality. Reality stinks compared to life in dream castles and fantasies. Yet I contend that fantasy (and all the words we use to describe it) is the very thing that makes us unhappy with our lives, our jobs, our spouses, our friends, our kids, our homes…. and all of our realities. We love being in the drunken state of Fantasyland. Fantasy is the “drug” of life that is so addictive it finally rules our life, creating a need for more and more fantasy to keep the buzz alive. We truly can’t be happy without a new, and many times, bigger fantasy. Men want women they have never had and lust for, or “fantasize” so much for them that they leave their wives to possess them, and when they do posses the new woman and the reality of her is no longer a fantasy, they start the fantasy over again, because the reality of having the “woman of their fantasy” will never equal the fantasy of having a new woman. And, as you know, women do this too. But I digress.

However, it is not just in the matter of sex that the fantasy drug presents its addictive nature. We use fantasy everyday to escape the realities of life. We rely on the drug of fantasy every time we say, “I will be happy when….” And we all do it. We start at a very early age and we never outgrow our need for the “speed” of fantasy.  I will be happy when I get my own bike, I will be happy when I am in sixth grade, I will be happy when I get out of Junior High, I will be happy if I am elected Student Body President, I will be happy when I go to College, I will be happy when I graduate from college, I will be happy when I get a real job, I will be happy when I can buy a new house, I will be happy when I have that new car, I will be happy when I get married, I will be happy when I get divorced, I will be happy when I have enough money to do what I want to do when I want to do it, I will be happy when the kids are out of the house, I will be happy when I retire, I will be happy when I can travel, I will be happy when I feel good again, I will be happy when someone comes to visit, I will be happy when, when, when, when,……and the beat goes on. The funny thing is, just like taking cocaine, we really are happy for a while, at least the mind thinks we are. The happiness of having your own bike will last a few days, or even weeks, but after a while the drug slowly wears off and eventually stops working and we want more, and now we must have a new fantasy in order to be happy again.

I used to like to go to the mall. I would go there and wish and hope for things that someday I wanted to have. I have all those things now, and it’s no longer fun to go to the mall. I have run out of fantasy “stuff” to posses. The reality is I own all the stuff I used to think would make me happy. All that stuff gave me happiness for a while, but most of those happiness fantasies are now in boxes in a storage unit so I could make room for more fantasy stuff to buy to make me happy. The drug of fantasy worship doesn’t stop there. In order to escape the sorrows of reality, one must do one of two things. One must create a fantasy in the future OR try and relive a fantasy of the past. As I observe people, as they grow older they love to tell stories about the past. The past, you see, has long ago moved from the reality of present to the fantasy of past. We tell the stories of the past as if they were real, but they too are just a dream. A dream or fantasy I try to bring to life again to make the present more interesting. You know these people. They are still telling you stories about what they did in High School or College. These stories are no more real than the “future fantasy” stories that little kids tell you about becoming firemen or policemen when they grow up. It is no different than playing with an imaginary friend named Roger. A fantasy cannot be a fantasy in the here and now. Fantasies can’t exist in the present. If they were real they would be called reality. But they’re not. They are called fantasy…. the drug of happiness. Yet the happiness created by fantasies is short lived, or worse yet, if never lived, fantasies create sadness and discontent. But at least now, I can see fantasy for what it really is. I can see it for the despicable drug I am so addicted to. I have decided to quit fantasy COLD TURKEY and have decided to allow life to be loved in the present.

So how does one live joyfully and happy in the present reality? Well, if fantasies eventually make you unhappy wouldn’t the lack of fantasies make you happy? Doesn’t that make sense? What if you were just to LIVE with no expectations? What if you were to just live in the NOW? What if you were to just get up in the morning and live? What if you were to just do what you needed to do, when you needed to do it, and do what you wanted to do, when you wanted to do it, and live in the reality of the moment, with no other expectation than just to live? Wouldn’t that make you happy? What if you were to live life with no desire or attachment, with no fantasy of what might be, with no wish for something that may or may not happen, and with only one thing on your mind…. LIVE NOW? Wouldn’t that make you happier? But maybe this is like telling a cocaine addict he would be much happier without cocaine. He would think you were crazy.

I have only tried this experiment for a month or so now, and I seem to be much happier. Sure bad things have happened, but bad things happen. A lot of good things have happened, but good things happen too. I have never been so productive. I am productive “without even trying,” because to try would require creating a fantasy, and living a productive life requires living NOW…. and nothing more. The world is upside down, isn’t it? We must ALLOW life to do its doing and we must be like water on our downhill journey to the sea. Wouldn’t it be silly for water to try and control its direction and flow UP hill? That would be stupid.  But at least now, I can see fantasy for what it really is. I can see it for the despicable drug I am so addicted to, and I have decided to quit COLD TURKEY.

I “ALLOW” life to happen. Trying to CONTROL life is almost as silly as being an impatient farmer, who plants his field in corn and then goes out several times a day to his field and yells at the ground, “GROW DAMN YOU, GROW!” The Corn will grow at its own speed. Sure you must water and take care of it a little, but the corn knows how to grow, and so it is with life.  ALLOW life to grow at its own speed. It’s a much more happy way to live. Now, I may be wrong, but what would it hurt to give my words a try. Hey, if it doesn’t work for you, go back to living in Fantasyland. Realityland is not for those of weak character. Most everyone wants the drug the “dealers” sell in Fantasyland, but if you can… “Just say NO.” Think about it.