We all spend much of our lives in fantasies.
I’m included in that observation: I fantasize about living a simple, minimalist life, I fantasize about traveling to foreign wonders, I fantasize about having a nice body, about being a great writer, about being the perfect father, and on and on.
This is how we spend so much of our lives. Goals are fantasies. Sometimes fantasies come true — but even then, the reality that comes true is not exactly what we fantasized about. It’s a disappointment.
If you saw the announcement of the iPhone5 recently, you might be fantasizing about owning it (or any other gadget for that matter). You fantasize that it will make your life better, that you’ll feel cooler. Your image of yourself, as you use this incredibly cool gadget, is nicer. It’s part of a beautiful, simple, productive, enjoyable life that you fantasize about — the iPhone5 will help you get there!
Of course, this isn’t true. The iPhone5 might be faster, with a better camera, lighter, a more beautiful design … but none of these things will really make your life that much better. Will it save you a few seconds a day in doing the tasks you normally do? Sure. Will your photos be nicer? Yeah. But putting aside the fantasy, how much will your life really be different?
Think of life before the iPhone existed. We used to be able to work without them. We walked around without checking email or Twitter or our stocks, but … we somehow survived. It was possible to wait a few minutes or an hour until we got home or to work. We maybe couldn’t look restaurants up as easily, but we still found food, miraculously.
Life might have been different, but having this device didn’t change the basic fundamental nature of our lives. The fantasy hasn’t come true.
It might sound like I’m picking on the iPhone, but I don’t mean to. It’s just emblematic of an overall phenomena in our minds — the fantasies we have, and how reality never measures up. We’re disappointed in reality then, even if it’s actually more incredible than the fantasies themselves.
Minimalism is a fantasy as well. People buy into it because it’s a lovely idea, living with little, being content, having a spartan workspace and living room. I buy into it, absolutely. But minimalism doesn’t have to be a fantasy: I also use it as a tool for mindfulness, for living more consciously, for remembering what’s important.
Minimalism can be a tool for remembering that when we buy gadgets, or almost anything really, we are buying into a fantasy. And then we can remember that we don’t need the fantasy to be happy. We have something right in front of us: reality.
Reality, without fantasies, is perfect. It’s a gift. Let’s learn to love it.