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What is ‘Real’?
What is ‘Imagined’?

A friend recently told me she couldn’t read fantasy stories because they confused her sense of reality. She prefers to read books about “real life people and events”. Okay. She prefers stories that keep firm grasp on what is perceived as the ‘normal’ and predictable way things can happen in daily life, with no big stretch of imagination required, no weird surprises. It makes her feel more “in control” of her world, she admits. Stories of magic and faery actually scare her… make her feel out of control… she fears she could get ‘lost’ in the fantasy.

But isn’t life all a fantasy? We live our lives based on ideas and images we have formed out of our own interpretations of things we have learned, experienced, seen and heard… We conjure our beliefs and judgements out of particular glimpses of reality, never the Whole Picture which we cannot perceive from our singular place in space. Therefore, we imagine what we cannot see, cannot know for sure. And we act upon the idea we have formed as if it were the whole Truth.

My own mind is on a constant fantasy journey. I am a kind of photo-maniac. I am addicted to “eye candy” … colorful pictures and weirdly interesting objects. I can spend hours at a time simply browsing through my photos or in magazines, or on Pinterest or Facebook where I see images that trigger my imagination and get me telling tales in my mind… building more pictures in my imagination.

These often prompt me to create some piece of art to illustrate the story. Recently, with a good bit of trepidation,  I began listing some of my own paintings and prints to sell in my Etsy Shop and on Pinterest.  I decided that it no longer matters how ‘professional’ our artistic efforts are, for if they please us, they may well please other eye-candy addicts out there… (although some folks with the need for ‘realism’ may find things to criticize. )

Reading brings another dimension to the exercise of our imagination, whether ‘real’ or ‘fictional’. Novels provide written stories that another person has imagined and that I can then create pictures from in my imagination as I read them.

It is also why I love to write… for when I sit down at the keyboard my imagination immediately kicks into gear and I bring up words on the paper that I hadn’t realized were in me! Images unfold in words, are painted in sentences and paragraphs and pages… building stories, creating fantasies… And often these first arise from  picture I have viewed elsewhere.

When others read my words, they imagine their own fantasies from them, so the stories grow and change from writer to reader to teller to yet another creative expressionist, in perhaps a song, a play, or simply a daydream…  Thus life can be a perpetual fantasy tale!

In the publishing world the Fantasy genre is usually combined with Science Fiction. This annoys me a bit because I think they are two quite distinct forms of story. Both are fantasy, yes… but Sci-Fi is built on a basic knowledge of science and scientific reasoning. It is based on an understanding of the physical possibilities of space travel and such.

Yet I do realize there are plenty of fantastic and “unrealistic” characters that appear from other worlds in space… so it is not that different from The Folk of Faery, who can be every bit as outrageous in light of what is seen as “reality” in our physical world.

Oh dear… I am confusing myself!

I recently began reading about Star Wars… since the latest movie came out and everyone seems to be talking about it. I remember seeing the first movie in my twenties… but had lost interest since. Now I can appreciate the parallels to “real Life” and enjoy the irony and metaphor the tale presents.

And here I gain some empathy with my friend who fears that fantasy will capture her grasp of reality. I find the implications of the Galaxy quite alarming… I would not want to be a space traveler. It does not excite my imagination. It scares me. Elves and gnomes and Faery Folk can be evil too, but their world enchants me… it does not scare me.

Yet I can imagine that both the hidden Faery realms and the Worlds of Outer Space may actually exist on some level of “reality” that is not given many of us to experience in our earthly ‘life-as-it-is’.  But maybe someday we could evolve to travel the Galaxies or revert back to a distant period on earth when magic and miracles were commonplace and civilization coexisted with the hidden mists of Faery and Elf land.

Until then I will dream and build stories in my fantastic imagination!

About Manywoman

I am an eclectic artist and writer, retired from a 35-year career as a PhD sex therapist and counselor at the University of MN Medical School, Program in Human Sexuality. Since retiring in 2005, I have devoted myself to hobbies and pursuits in various art forms and in writing. My art and writing both tend to focus on subjects of women's spirituality and occult mysteries, I read voraciously in most genres, but mainly Occult and urban fantasy, historical fiction, and non-fiction alternative history and religions from female perspective. In addition I am a lover of cats, with five at home with me; an avid collector of fashion dolls; a sewer and creator of art quilts and other fiber arts; a hap-hazard flower gardener; and a retired professional astrologer.
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  1. anag7 says:

    Love this! Beautifully written! I too am a lover of fantasy tales. I so wish I could live in a world like Narnia or The Lord of the Rings. The genre I mostly write is fantasy. It’s just so much fun!


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