If you think that fantasy has no place in your world, think again. It’s a fact that every person lives two lives: an inner one and an outer one. You could even say that—like a work of fiction—each of us has a plot (what our story is about) and a theme (what our story is really about*). And this is where it’s worth exploring the meaning of that word ‘fantasy’. Its primary meaning is, ‘something that has no basis in reality’ but its secondary meaning is, ‘a musical composition, free in form, typically involving variation on an existing work or the imaginative representation of a situation or story.’
Have you ever been caught off-guard and moved to tears by a film or a song that caused you to think, ‘It’s as if someone’s been reading my mail’? That’s because it didn’t just speak of your plot— the ‘got born, went to school, got a job story’—which you talk and joke about all the time, it touched on your theme: your ‘musical composition’ as it were.
Whether we like it or not, each of us has one of these ‘theme stories’ happening inside us in much the same way as the characters in Les Miserable, Lilith1 or Pilgrim’s Progress2. And those of us who read these stories do so because we are taken into a series of individual moments and meetings where there might be a fight, a discussion, a piece of music; the giving of a gift, a wound or a magic drink. How like real life and yet how infrequently we talk or even write about such moments and meetings. Unless of course a moment of open-ness gives us permission to do so.
These moments may be at a birth, a wedding or a wonderful restoration of a friendship, but they might also be at some tragedy when we realise we should have opened our mouth years ago, but now it’s too late. When we look closely at the cause of our procrastination, a contest between fear and love is always at the root of it: intimidating fear usually wins out and we simply won’t risk letting our music out.
But why not? The longer you allow this sad game to go on the the more those around you will imagine that your real story is your plot. As in, the ‘got born, went to school, got a job,’ story, and so it is that your children, your wife and your friends fall for the lie that what really matters to you is the ‘big machinery of events and programs’ rather than that sweet secret story of hope/despair, love/hate, forgiveness/resentment’: the music and the theme that is you.
* taken from a comment by Sally Odgers