I fool around with the idea of driving to Bolivia. I got the idea of being in Bolivia from the novel Stone Cowboy by Mark Jacobs. Fiction has power. I think I’d like the Andes bowl-like La Paz with its Witches Market offering llama fetuses. Lake Titicaca must be incredible. My iMac screen is a picture of it. One of those bowler hats Bolivian women wear would be an exciting addition to my wardrobe.
I suspect I couldn’t take the 14,000 foot altitude. Not with my sinuses. I’d spend my time lying on a bed being seriously annoyed. Bolivia might be better kept as fantasy. And that might not matter. “The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life ….” As I’ve been playing with this trip to Bolivia, I’ve come to wonder if we’d be better off if we redefined fantasy and our use of it. The stories we write in our heads also could be indistinguishable from “real” life. A big error in our assumptions about real versus fantasy might be thinking that we should either do our damnedest to make fantasies real—or give up fantasizing because it’s childish.
We have to live in the actual world, put a roof over our heads, eat to stay alive, work to earn money to have the roof, food, as well as other things; but it might be we should have at least part of our important life experience in our fantasy world. Humans have been hard wired to want, need stories. We write stories in our heads. Why not consider them part of our real lives?
I’ve never been to Bolivia so how can I fantasize it? I research it, find pictures, listen to the music, read the writers of that country. I can acquire enough info to tell myself Bolivia stories that delight me. I can be in Bolivia any time, anywhere. Meet people. Have adventures. I could drive Death Road. No. Forget that. I’ll stick with just the drive to Bolivia.
What are your fantasies? Have you ever thought about making them as important as reality in your life? Walter Mitty is seen as a rather sorry henpecked guy. He might have been smarter and happier than we think. If you don’t know James Thurber’s story about a fantasy pro you can read, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” here.
Whatever your thoughts on the importance of fantasy, keep telling yourself stories. Go to Bolivia or wherever you want.
“… does it matter if the place cannot be [seen] as long as I can describe it?” Paraphrasing Jeanette Winterson in Sexing the Cherry.
“Anything I’ve encountered in the world is never as interesting as a novel … .What you find out there is never as exciting as your own creation.” Joyce Carol Oates.
Special note for this opening post—
Thanks to Mark Jacobs for “taking” me to Bolivia.
Thanks to Carol, Jane and Seema, my writing companions—all smart and funny as hell—for their help with writing and this website.