Thoughts by Richard Bleil
The older a person becomes, the more things that are strange happen to them. I’m watching a vampire movie as I write this. It’s a Swedish movie, and it is interesting. Basically, a movie with children actors, a vampire that was apparently twelve when she turned (and does not age) befriends a boy that is the same age. It might be worth the watch if you enjoy the legend, as it has some interesting twists. It brings to mind a conversation I had some years ago with a young man who I think was trying to impress my friend. I lived for many years with a family. In exchange for room and board I would watch their son every day when he came home from middle school. The father was a physicist at MIT, and the mom was a biologist at Brandeis.
The day that I left, I was saying goodbye to the father, and we were having a final conversation. I was about to complete my doctorate in chemistry and had to move on to finish it. They had found a replacement for me, and he kept following us around the house and cutting into our conversation, which invariable irritated my friend who would say, “come on, Richard,” and move to another room. Basically, he just wanted to have one final farewell conversation with me.
At one point, and I cannot imagine how this might have happened, the conversation turned to vampires. One of my favorite book is Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and I probably was trying to draw some kind of analogy. This replacement, I believe trying to show off his knowledge, once again jumped into the conversation, and to show his knowledge began explaining “real vampires”. His information was based on Anne Rice, but what really caught my attention was him reference to “real vampires”. I ended the conversation when I looked at him and explained that, since vampires are fictional characters, there is no such thing as “real vampires”.
It’s amazing how some people get so deeply involved in a fictional world that they sometimes can’t seem to distinguish between their world and reality. Sci fi fans get so wrapped up in Star Trek and Star Wars that they debate the physics of both. Marvel fans discuss their favorite superheroes (or villains) as if they are real people or debate the differences between Marvel and the DC universe. The Hobbit and Game of Thrones fans get so wrapped up in the fantasy that they act as if a real person has been killed if their favorite character dies.
Escapism isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. It helps to keep our otherwise plain lives interesting and gives us a way to utilize our imagination. When I played Dungeons and Dragons, our campaigns were very complex. My friends and I would meet nearly every weekend, and we’d be in our world, and in the skin of our game character, literally for years. The game, if you’ve never played, is basically problem-solving. You play a new person, with unique abilities that just don’t exist in our world be they swordplay, sorcery, or something else. The Game Master would put challenges in your way, and basically, you would have to figure out (as a team) how to overcome those obstacles with your character’s skill set.
The interesting thing is that, when you play long enough, the game world becomes real in your mind. You’re envisioning the mazes, and forest, and begin feeling what the character feels. Some days, after playing for seven or eight hours or more, it’s actually challenging to get your mind out of the fantasy world and into the real one. Its an amazing phenomenon, and even today I have memories from things that happened in the game as if they were real.
Fantasy life is very cool. It’s a great escape from whatever might be bothering you, and makes you feel empowered in ways you cannot from day to day. But it can also put you in dangerous situations. If you’re too caught up in the DC universe, you might begin to think of yourself as a kind of Batman, more or less invincible and on a quest to stamp out evil. The reality is anybody who thinks this is not. They’re just as frail and vulnerable as the rest of us. I’m not saying that being a Batman fanatic will turn a person into a vigilante, but, in the event of something bad happening, like seeing a mugging in progress or an armed robbery, they might be tempted to try to intervene in a reckless manner that can get them seriously injured or even killed. In the Ukraine, trained Russian troops are spreading across the country. I have a rifle and enjoy playing with it. If something like that happened here, would I be tempted to try to take on a garrison just because I feel empowered? I’m not sure what the point to this post is, it’s just something I find interesting.