THE BLOG

It's a Fine Line Between Imagination and Fantasy, and Most of Our Young Men Are on the Wrong Side

17/10/2013 12:58 | Updated 23 January 2014

As human beings one of our greatest attributes is our imagination, it makes us the uniquely innovative creatures we are, it has been used to create the wonders of our present culture. The advent of computers and gaming has led some of us, particularly men, to be distracted from using our imaginations, sidetracked into fantasy. There is a very important difference between the imagination and fantasy which we ignore at our peril. Imagination affects change in reality, fantasy doesn't.

Imagination is part of a creative process which transforms and has momentum, it enables us to think and move outside the box. Fantasy is about our own glory, keeping us in stasis, it has excitement but no momentum. Fantasy is very addictive, many young men say cyberspace is the one place where they feel they are in control, have power and a high self regard. Unfortunately, this doesn't transmit into the reality of their lives. 'Fantasy and reality are opposing forces, but imagination and reality are not in opposition: Imagination goes towards reality, shapes and evokes it.' Norman Fischer

One of the most common fantasies of young men today is to be a porn star. If they won't admit to this then they often say they want to be an inventor of fantasy games, or an IT expert. This reflects their close relationship to the 'game controller' of their lives, their present addiction to fantasy. As we are all aware computer generated games and environments have literally taken over most young peoples lives. 5 million gamers in the USA are spending more than 40 hours a week playing games. The average young person has spent 10,000 hours gaming by the age of 21. How many people have they killed in cyberspace during those long hours? This doesn't take into account the hours they spent looking at porn.

Some parents glibly dismiss the damage being done because their teenagers are at least safely in their room, not out on the streets. Job done. Many boys are in their rooms, unable to communicate, severely isolated, addicted and fixated on killing, damaging, conquering, enslaving. Job not done.

We can't afford to look away from this. Our present addiction to gaming and porn is a very serious matter, which needs confronting, just as any other addiction does. Our addictive fantasy world existence is actually hindering our development as a species. It is stunting us all, by suppressing our imaginations.

Our young people are mindlessly following us into fantasy because they have had their imaginations closed down. The education and upbringing we provided was not geared to stimulating imagination, it was about control and conformity, which is then replaced by fear and frustration when they grow up. As a consequence many of our young men lead isolated, fearful, and damaging lives. The creation of a fantasy world is a retreat from the stressful nature of their existence. Fantasy may give short term relief, but there are longer term effects. Fantasy suppresses imagination, and right now we need to return to imagination rather than fantasy.

To paraphrase Prince Charles 'it's not the modern technologies which are the problem, it's the mindsets of the people using them.' There are many examples of young people applying imagination, combining it with modern technologies, creating services and programmes which are of wider community benefit.

By turning away from fantasy to imagination these young people have altered our reality for the better. We need large numbers of these entrepreneurs who imagine and then enable us to inhabit new viable, non-addictive, holistic realities. We need our young people to stop being addicts and to step back across the thin dividing line to become dreamers and visionaries instead. 'Visionary people face the same problems everyone else faces; but rather than get paralysed by their problems, visionaries immediately commit themselves to finding a solution.' Bill Hybels

We need to use our imaginations to fulfil our potential, be in control of our lives, and increase our self regard in reality, not fantasy. By confronting and admitting the truth that many people are now addicted to fantasy and porn, we can free ourselves. Young people, men especially, need to be supported and encouraged to be brave, and have the courage to think outside the box, not remain addicted and subservient to the fantasy elements of the blue light thrall of the screen.