This piece was published in the Autumn 2011 issue of Razz My Berries magazine.
In an ideal, altruistic, utopian world, there would be no harm in letting your imagination explore the deepest recesses of daydream. But in today’s pressured social landscape, escaping into your thoughts, even just for a second, is a sign of weakness. The act of daydreaming implies that you’re somewhere other than where you’re meant to be; you’ve lost focus; you’ve fallen out of sync.
Ergo- I’m going to use this space to escape, and really imagine the kind of world that allows people to lose themselves in thought. Just for these brief words will I think about a society which values the benefits of the daydream to the individual.
Far from being a failure of mental discipline, daydreaming is a healthy way to explore long-term plans, dreams and goals that a pragmatist would never consider. Those in the know classify daydreaming as a lapse into ‘task-unrelated thoughts’, which sounds like a strangely paradoxical way of categorising the uncategorisable.
A recent article in the New York Times had a lot to say on this topic. It made the very interesting point that we live by the mantra: ‘I think, therefore I am’; we should know what is going on in our own minds. But when you think about it, hell, you might even daydream about it, then you’d have to admit that daydreams are evidence that we cannot control the seemingly meaningless meanderings of our brains. Daydreams are our mind’s way of telling us that we don’t know everything; we need a little subconscious to point us in the right direction.
So why is daydreaming so fundamental, particularly in our modern, busy lives? Well, believe it or not, I would say that it helps us to put things in perspective. When we daydream, our minds never drift off into the sensational Hollywood dramas that seem to come alive at night. What they do is give us a space within which we can consider the potential consequences of potential actions. It’s a healthy space, a ‘trial run’, if you like.
In many facets of life, we are told that we should only entertain the tangible and the pragmatic, we don’t trust what we cannot see for ourselves. Daydreaming contradicts this. A recent study found that above a certain point, money, ambition and status cannot provide happiness, so we must ask: what can? Is the answer to that which is one of life’s great conundrums actually calm, vision and hope? Is daydreaming the portal through which we gain a sense of who we are and what we could become?
Perhaps- at least, given the perpetually increasing stress levels of the population, we should probably give it a go. As much as daydreaming is a subject of derision for many, it could be, even if only symptomatically, what our individual bodies and social body are craving. When we consider it at the most basic level, not allowing your mind the opportunity to slip into daydream is a sign of over-activity. Time is a precious commodity, but what doesn’t seem immediately obvious to many is that time is precious whether it’s being filled or not.
I am a victim, as I’m sure are many, of the feeling that empty time is time wasted. In fact, I still struggle with the concept of doing ‘nothing’. But nothing is never nothing; nothing is the space which your mind needs in order to sit back and, ironically, to capitalise on who you are. After all, each and every one of us is more than an employee. The daydream allows the story of our lives to unfurl in ways which don’t tend to happen when we’re consciously thinking about what we’re ‘supposed’ to be doing.
So next time you’re feeling half-baked and frazzled from work and sleep deprivation, don’t be afraid to take time out to think. Chances are your mind will wander, daydreams will form, and light will be shed on the problems that seem unfathomable in the conscious bubble of daily life.