Wednesday, 21 January 2015

A Fantasy World

Unfantastic.  This isn't actually a word, but it still comes to mind when think of the real world--a world apart from wizards and dragons; elves and orcs; spells and spellcastors; vampires and zombies.

I love escaping into the pages of a fictional world.  I am not alone.  You too enjoy fantasy worlds, even if you haven't read anything outside of the literature prescribed at school.

Why do we love fantasy so much?

It's more than being amazed and entertained by the creations of human imagination.  There are a number of reasons why we like fantasy worlds:

1.  It gives us a break from the real world.  Life is full of stress.  From managing relationships to balancing a budget to keeping safe while driving.  The real world requires real effort.  Our actions have real consequences.

Entering a fantasy world like the ones presented in video games gives us opportunities to act without consequence.  Failing virtual quests do not have the same after-effects as failing
real life ones.

Turning on the news reminds us what is happening in the world, but by changing the channel to one showing a fantasy film we allow our brains to take a break from the world's pressing issues.  Watching a movie prince rescue his princess is likely significantly easier than performing a service in one of your own relationships.

2.  The fantasy world can have fantastic characters, with fantastic ideals.  Let's face it, in real life you are never going to become an action hero able to take out a tank from the back of a horse; you won't be able to navigate a crotch rocket through oncoming traffic, escaping law enforcement and gunfire.  But if you're honest, you wouldn't mind being this amazing.

Not only does the fantasy world allow you to, in a way, becoming the action hero and partake in the corresponding exploits, but it gives you a character to look up to.  I don't think it's a bad thing for a person to look at a fit actor and strive to become fit themselves.  Even more, we can take the qualities of love, loyalty, courage, and perseverance that we see in our favourite protagonists and try to apply them in our own lives.
A gnome rogue based
on one of my WoW
toons, drawn for
Lessons From Naruto

3.  Fantasy worlds create real connections.  There are people in this world who you have nothing in common with (with the exception, of course, of the thrilling local weather).  Yet all you have to do is follow the same sports team then presto, you have numerous more things to talk to this person about (and yes, I just called sports "fantasy."  The majority of the time you're not the professional hockey player cruising around on top of ice in an arena filled with sharp skates, long sticks wielded by muscular athletes, and a projectile hard enough to cause serious damage to your face).  Many friends can be made playing multi-player video games.  Two people can disagree on politics, religion, and whether or not it's okay to live on processed foods, but they can enjoy each other's company in their cosplay.

Yeah, And?

I love fantasy, and so do you.  Because of the appeal of the fantasy, there is a temptation to get distracted from real life, the things that matter.  I hate to break it to you, but in the big picture it doesn't matter who wins the sport's championship or which character dies in your favourite television series.

I've spent no small amount of time in the past fantasizing about my next video game session or what may happen next in the audiobook I'm listening to.  Yet there are real issues in the world.  There are mouths to feed, jobs to complete, and relationships to build.  There are people that need our help.

But wait, there's more...

Fantasy worlds are not just external manifestations for us to focus on.  We create our own fantasy worlds even within the context of our own lives.  We have a tendency to take life and the situations therein at face-value.  We may be well aware that the world doesn't revolve around us, but yet we still have the proclivity to live according to the fantasy that it does.

Many of us live our lives trying to find the ideal spouse with the ideal career and the ideal home.  Without digging deeper, we live in this fantasy world which we believe will give us happiness if we only meet certain criteria that society sets up for us.

I'm not trying to suck the fun out of your life by saying this stuff doesn't matter at all.  What I'm instead trying to suggest is for you to ask yourself a few questions, especially in regards to things you spend a significant amount of time on:

  1.  Is this something that really matters, especially in the broader scope?
  2.  Does it matter just because I want it to, or because it really does matter?
  3.  Is it at all possible for this thing to be taken away from me?  If so, how much of my happiness and meaning would go with it?
  4.  Is it possible that I have entrusted more of my happiness and meaning to this than it was worth?
  5.  Is there things that I can focus on that would be more productive, permanent, and worthwhile?

We live in a real world full of fantasy worlds.  The trick is to discern which is which and allocate our time accordingly.