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The Battle With ‘Ordinariness’

What was Fantasy for you today?

Did you complete your assignment?…one was never given.

It is not just about reading stories, it is about living them…being them. Every turn in the road is an opportunity to apply imagination. To Be. It goes ever on and on.

Surely, reading the great stories gives inspiration. Vital inspiration. Specific emotional colors and solutions to complex problems, like formulas. We must carry them with us. We must use them to deal with situations in our lives that arise, and apply extraordinary imagination to ‘ordinary’ challenges.

What is ‘ordinary’ other than the failure to apply imagination?…or just forgetting to.

Sometimes we forget, that is alright, just take a breath and think of your favorite imaginative world or a character that you identify with…maybe one you have created for yourself. No one else has to know the meaning of your quiet smirk, distant look or oddly-placed sigh.

They don’t have to know that when the professor or teacher pauses to find a page in their text, your mind shot off to middle earth or the mirror universe, or that when the staff meeting takes a vacant turn, your imagination took flight and gained inspiration in Prydain or the planet Tir’whol…but they will see/hear that when it is your turn to speak, you are vitalized, there is an extra spark to your voice and that you might say things that inspire their imaginations. Perhaps you surprise them with a turn of phrase that hints of things that are ‘beyond the fields they know’, and with a flavor of Legolas or Captain Jack Sparrow.

Some will wrinkle their nose and look away. Perhaps they rejected that part of themselves long ago. The intimation of imaginative realms that somehow came out in your speech about ordinary things challenged their decision to embrace ordinariness. Just smile and feel sorry for them. They are lost, but at least their reaction shows that there is memory of lost things that may be recovered.

Another may give you a dark look, or a dangerous vacant smile…they may even make a cutting remark, take care…this may be your enemy. The enemies of imagination are real and rampant. They may be conversant with ‘that hideous strength’ C.S. Lewis writes of in the third book of his Perelandra Series.

Read it and be prepared.

Others, however, may recognize a member of their tribe, and with them you may have fellowship.

At the very least you have survived the onslaught of ordinariness and can step out into the sunlight, or the murky rain-filled landscape beyond the buildings where you spent most of your day, and you may continue your adventure. You’ve survived Mordor, this was nothing.

Just be sure to take notes.

As for me, in the patient Mrs. Elrond’s sixth grade class many years ago, I completely ignored class altogether. Ignored it and read, over and over, The Lord Of The Rings. Mrs. Elrond took up the books once and was frustrated, but very kind and gentle about it.

When ‘book report time’ came. I stood up and read major passages from the Lord Of The Rings, one from each book; from The Fellowship Of The Ring I read the adventure from The Chamber of Mazarbul in Moria, from The Two Towers, Helm’s Deep, and from The Return Of The King I remember reading the battle between Sam and Shelob with great passion.

It was literally the only time my classmates heard my voice all year long.

After that Mrs. Elrond gave me a pass. She got the point.

That was my sixth grade. That and my dog Pranya waiting for me everyday as I left school to walk home. She was a black cockerpoodle, so smart. I’d give her a big smooch right on the mouth and the other kids would go ‘ewww’…but I knew who my friends were, in this case canine.

Times were different then, especially in the deep south.

Anyone else have similar experiences?

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  1. Paul Groh

    This is all fairly abstract, and I’m not sure I follow you exactly. In an earlier post you maintained that fantasy, by stimulating the imagination, helps us deal with reality. I agree with that wholeheartedly. Here, however, you seem to be presenting fantasy as a retreat from reality and therefore a means of dealing with social isolation. While I suppose it can be that, it doesn’t have to be, and retreating deeper into isolation doesn’t solve the problem. Taken to an extreme, one can end up a pathetic figure like Miniver Cheevy in the Edward Arlington Robinson poem, who daydreamed about the knights of old “…and kept on drinking.”

    I first heard of Tolkien from a friend way back in 1976. He not only had all the books, he also had books about the books, and books about the books about the books. I started noticing them everywhere. All of them were in every bookstore and every library. My sister had them, and I’d see people carrying them around school. A few years later “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” were adapted into animated films. So right from the start I saw Tolkien’s work, not as something with a limited cult following like Lovecraft, but as something with widespread mass appeal like Star Trek. With the success of the Peter Jackson movies, Tolkien’s fiction has a much bigger place in today’s mainstream culture than that of, say, Hemingway or Mark Twain.

    I once had a very boring job rotating stock. I had to put the old stock at the front of the shelves and the new stock in back. It would have been much easier just to put the new stock in front; but then my imagination would start personifying these inanimate objects, and I’d wonder what the older items would have to say about this breach of proprietary etiquette if someone in a position of responsibility (me) gave priority to less deserving youngsters. In real life, in an unjust society, this happens all the time.

    This is the sort of fantasizing that is normally going through my head whenever someone asks me “What are you smiling about?” I generally say I was just thinking about something funny I saw on TV. Fantasy can be a personal thing, and most people aren’t interested in detailed explanations.

    It’s also fun to make up stories to accompany the music we listen to. It not only enhances the experience, but as a performer, I find it an aid to interpretation.

    I’d say you were pretty lucky with Mrs. Elrond. My sixth grade teacher was really mean. Similar experiences? Let me think about that for a while.

    • Christopher

      Good one – nice example of using imagination to enhance an ordinary situation!

      Unlike some other authors/worlds, I can never get enough of Tolkien! In fact, at some point in the future my daughter and I are going to devote a vacation day and marathon the director’s cut movie trilogy – think it’s about 12 hours!

      I appreciate your comments! Just be careful about characterization…(no worries)…but the situation I am describing above – well, wasn’t planning to go there right off, but here we are – I experienced rather severe and wide ranging domestic abuse as a child… So – fantasy (and music) were actually my paths out of isolation…(though as I get older I seem to be happy with becoming more reclusive again…and writing my stories – Book Six – “The Green World Part One” – is going well!) – So that is another level, one might say, of the possible role of fantasy in one’s life. There are others of my ilk about and I want them to find us here for a safe and friendly reception!

      Interesting…wow…her name was Mrs…E-L-R-O-N-D….I actually never put that together before….Ho Ho!!


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