Seeing Characters Everywhere & Saving the World

I think I saw Toulouse Lautrec at my kid’s basketball practice the other day. I also saw the Elephant Man at the hardware store. I am pretty sure Houdini was at my other kid’s soccer game, coaching for the other team. Van Gogh was selling hot dogs from a cart. This was not Montmartre in Paris nor was it a dream.

This could be an everyday occurrence; seeing characters everywhere. It takes an open mind, not shutting out any possibility. Amelia Earhart delivering mail on a rural route. Mata Hari driving a taxi in the city. Bela Lugosi a small town plumber. Orson Wells picking up garbage.

I have seen these things. Or at least imagined them in my waking life. Am I having a breakdown? Am I susceptible to flights of fancy because I’m a writer? I don’t think so, though you can never be sure, can you? I like to think I’m just in touch with my creative side.

Just because we’re not all famous doesn’t mean we don’t all have ideas or fantasies or dreams. The grocery clerk stocking shelves could be wishing he were handling important items like gold bars at Fort Knox. The traveling salesman with sample cases in his trunk could be fantasizing he’s a secret agent with state secrets to deliver at his next stop. The housewife doing her umpteenth load of laundry that month could come up with an ingenious idea for a folding machine.

We are capable of showing imagination. That’s a gift that gets tucked away in a closet, often unused and forgotten or at the least, taken for granted. Somehow as we “grow up,” that gets beaten out of us by real life. It becomes harder and harder to find shapes in the clouds or stories in strangers’ faces. But just open your eyes sometime. There are possibilities amidst the absurdity of the everyday. Are you really going to let yourself get lost in balancing a checkbook? Meeting a deadline? Deciding what’s for dinner? Are we really so small that it has to be one or the other? Grow up or make believe?

No. If that were so, we would not have need of movies or novels or music. We often say we “lose” ourselves in a book or movie or song, but I think that’s where we find a part of ourselves. The part than can imagine, create, believe.

So if I want to imagine the UPS delivery guy is coming to sweep me off my feet or the student teacher in my kid’s class is a spy or a neighbor is in the witness protection program, let me go. I just may come up with something wonderful. At least I’ll entertain myself. If we could all entertain ourselves a bit more and be open to the creativity of others, wouldn’t that help us all get along better?

I don’t always write with a message, but I think this one is clear: daydreaming may just save the world.

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