Fantasy plays a powerful role in human life.  Advertisers do not sell sex, they sell the fantasy of pleasure without consequence.  Megachurches do not sell grace, they sell community without pain.  Cable news does not sell enlightenment, they sell information without context or consequence.  Outdoor retailers do not sell adventure, they sell the fantasy of nature without effort or danger.

A current REI ad. Notice how effortlessly they carry heavy packs, how coordinated their colors are, how level the trail is, and how pastoral and serene the mountains appear.

Fantasy is always sold, always selling.  Fantasy is propaganda.  Of course, the most powerful fantasies are the ones we sell ourselves.

Fundamentally, fantasy is a displacement from the real, but it is real enough to believe—to self-deceive. Fantasy is verisimilitude.  It offers the appearance of reality while subtly altering its form.  For those who navigate false worlds, the distance from reality appears slight at first, becoming greater only over time.  A compass bearing that misses true north by a few degrees  separates a hiker from her destination by mile or more after only a few hours.  The less one takes new measurements or verifies the course with known landmarks, the greater the distortion.

So goes the courses of our lives—measured imperfectly, verified intermittently.

Some of my own self-deceptions have confronted me this week.  I believed on Sunday that I would sew a bivy and tarp, seal the tarp’s seams, and on Saturday disappear into Glacier for the weekend.  I neglected our needs to clean the house, pay our bills, file the last two months of those bills, complete my weekly graduate assignments and paper, exercise, work five days, and spend enough time with my wife so that she feels valued and loved.

I sold myself the fantasy of vacation without discipline—the verisimilitude of my pleasure without consequences for others.

Last night was a reorientation, a recognition that the disciplined self into whom I am trying to become is still rather tenuous and over-confident.  I am okay with that—for now.  I have sold myself shallow consumerism for many years, and the antidote is more than a new bearing, it is a change in destination and a more challenging journey.

the Outside

Perhaps this is what makes orienteering so difficult.  Fantasy is easier to believe.  The propaganda of the mind reduces the self even as it preaches a gospel of comfort.  When lie becomes truth, the seller the thing sold, even the destination itself becomes a fantasy.


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