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Fantasy and Reality

Where one stops and the other begins is becoming harder to tell.

“Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?” – Morpheus, The Matrix

Ah The Matrix, everyone’s favourite movie when invoking a discussion surrounding the nature of reality – “What is real? How do you define, real?” – however, the whole red pill thing or are we living in a simulation has been overdone like a bad steak. I’d rather talk about whether people would prefer to live in fantasy or reality.

I see an increasing number of people – thanks largely to advances in technology, but also partly due to how the world currently is – choosing the former over the latter. Social media has allowed us to essentially become voyeurs to other people’s lives, passively intaking experiences rather than being active in them. Viewing a picture or video or something is drastically different than being there first-hand, but more and more are partaking in the fantasy of that something over its reality.

Let me explain with a simple example; a lot of people love to travel…or is that the idea of travel? For years now – even BC, before-covid – I’ve been trying to get my brother to travel with me to places that both of us like, but especially him. He’ll be the first to send me a picture via Instagram of a beautiful Tuscan villa overlooking the rolling hills, but despite my constant incessance, he has never stepped foot in Italy. We’re both massive petrolheads, but do you think I can get this man to Japan? Nope. I swear my brother enjoys the fantasy of travel rather than its reality.

I guess that’s one thing you could say about fantasy over reality; it’s usually easier, more convenient, quicker and requires less effort, energy and resources.

Fantasy can be that good enough substitution for reality, as in the above example, and sometimes, thanks to technology, these substitutions look pretty damn good. With a lot of these images/renders being so gorgeous and imitative of real life, who would want to live in the real-world?

As I mentioned in my article last week, I undertake what’s called virtual photography (VP) when I play video games. Long gone are the days of 8-bit and block characters, unless you play Minecraft, modern day environmental and character models are wondrously beautiful and insanely realistic – and I get to play make believe cameraman haha. In essence that’s what VP is, fantasy photography. What you can do in the photo modes of some of these games is unreal – and in more ways than one. I still take a reasonable real-world photo, but in VP, I can do things real-world photographers could only dream of.

Real-life Marc Marquez. Photo by Martyn Foster.

Virtual Marc Marquez. Image captured by Martyn Foster.

I guess that’s another thing you could say about fantasy over reality; there are fewer or no barriers to entry (e.g. skill, cost) and there is limitless potential, creativity and novelty.

Reality gives us plenty of D’s; I’m talking about downsides, deficiencies, dystopias, despair and downright depressing days. As we try to overcome this barrage of D’s, escapism through fantasy is a common method to reduce one’s fear and suffering, to seek comfort and security and/or joy and happiness. We also trial and error through fantasy, we taste test through fantasy, it’s largely a no real consequences to our actions through fantasy, but what happens when fantasy starts to seep back through into reality?

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realise there has been an increase in recent years in the number of people pushing/pedalling fantasies AS realities. The Fast and The Furious series is a great metaphor for the modern age: “less are concerned about believability or logic – and they take pride in doing so.”

With a near permanent connection with a “device” – phone, computer, tv, video games – which we’re already seeing transition to headgear with digital glasses or VR headsets, I sense it’s going to get more and more difficult to separate ourselves from the fantastical world. This will be temporary before moving to full integration – followed by Arnie being sent back in time to save us from the singularity...or just a virtual meeting with Zuckerberg in the Metaverse.

Accepting reality for what it is and not what it ought to be is imperative for your mental wellbeing. Always aim to have at least one foot in reality – you’re better off trying to construct a better reality for yourself than to live in the ultimate fantasy.

You’ll have to decide whether you want to be like Cypher; eating steak, drinking wine, believing whatever you want to believe in a state of ignorance is bliss. Or, you take the red pill, you stay in wonderland and I’ll show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. I guess I too can’t really escape the matrix either.

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