I’ve come to love delving into the thick of it — when it comes to the fantastic, that is. For a long time, I pushed off the surreal. There was enough reality to learn, to know, to solve for, to grow from, and to live in.
In college, I wanted to know the world so I could crack the code. What were the answers to all the problems of this puzzling world of ours? I asked myself this time and time again with much learned but still, to no avail.
The straight and narrow path to wisdom did not reveal itself to me as an undergrad, nor did it in grad school. Instead, the woods thickened. The conceptual “truths” of the world became darker, blurrier and more obscure.
I went into Harlem to try to do one good thing in the world — teach kids to love language as much as I did, so that they could more fully express themselves and understand their own truths. That was the second iteration of me, as the empowered activist, the charity-minded, the hopeful healer. There, reality started to feel more like fiction. And I started to question why it was that I was pursuing a single “truth” or understanding about the way of the world at all. It seemed more like a harsh joke I’d played on myself than anything else — to believe that there was a single concept of reality that we’d all latched onto and experienced in the same way seemed cruel and frankly, it felt like a lie.
I think I started listening when I started working. I was the newbie, the young’un, the fresh face, so I had a lot more to learn than I had to talk about. I stopped pontificating and being so focused on what I wanted to say that I was missing everything around me. I learned to observe, learned to watch and learned to wait. Biting your tongue and listening a bit longer can be a good thing, if it means coming forth with meaningful questions that lead to a smoother and more substantive approach to ushering in a new period of growth.
When it comes to quirky shows and over-the-top movies, I’ve learned to listen. I’ve embraced the opportunity to sit back and be receptive to outrageous ideas with heroes and aliens and ghosts before judging them.
It’s not that I’ve stopped caring about reality. But I do like getting away from it.
Fantasy and sci-fi and even those blockbuster superhero movies I used to loathe (or pretend to, for the sake of feeling pretentious, I guess) are totally my bag now. And I love Doctor Who.
In the wonderful worlds of Doctor Who, you forget about petty exchanges that had the most irritating hint of passive aggressive tone in it, or the week’s finances, or the chores that need to be done. You travel back to meet Van Gogh. Sure, it’s impossible, and dorky, and sometimes a little kitschy, but it’s fun. It’s fun to imagine that world. Imagining a world of possibility brings out the child in me. And playing pretend stimulates parts of my brain that can be starved for resources in the mundane world of everyday life. It’s just another part of me that I’m nourishing, right? The totally self-indulgent geeky one. In fact, I have to admit that the material goods (by that I pretty much just mean clothes, but it sounds deeper this way) I once yearned for have now become pretty obsolete. Spending money on frivolous things like expensive new outfits I’ll wear once or twice just seems silly, when I can be brought into a different universe.
It takes an enormous amount of willpower to give up wanting and to simply be. Buddhists spend a lifetime trying to reach enlightenment, and so too, do we all. Embracing an unreal world and accepting it is, in a way, a kind of mental exercise that could get one closer to total self-realization, could it not?
And hey, while we’re at it, reading books like the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and watching a world with superheroes like in Kick Ass (yes, Future Husband has been a bit of an influencer in this case) is, in a way, stretching one’s mind to understand the multiplicity in world views, to ultimately better understand all of mankind. Right?
Okay, maybe I’m the one stretching it here. But the point is, I think I’m finally arriving at the next stage in my life, or I hope so, at least, as the brazen pioneer, the thoughtful leader and one who is self-aware. It’s a daunting role, but by golly, I think I’ll give it a go.