Daydreaming tends to get a bad press, as a trivial, time wasting lazy sort of activity. ‘Daydreaming’ is what you’ll be accused of if you didn’t get the useful thing done fast enough. Indulgent, castle in the cloud building, of no use… this is something I want to challenge. I want to recast daydreaming as a profound, spiritual, life enhancing activity.
How do you know what you want from life, who you want to be, how you want to live? If life and mental activity are focused on being busy and useful, there’s simply no room for these questions. You do what you always do, what you are told to do. The daydreamer has room to imagine other lives and outcomes, to build imaginary castles and people them with possibilities. If we are going to do something, we need to dream it first, testing out the implications, picturing the challenges and building the idea that we could.
Daydreaming allows us to develop and hone empathy. Once you start wondering what would happen and how other people would react, you are in the business of empathising. To see how your fairy tale schemes might play out, be they ever so farfetched, you end up thinking about what other people might think or feel in response. Perhaps you find space to wonder how other people, and non-human people live and feel, what the world looks like from their perspective. Even if you are totally wrong in your surmises, just considering that other beings see the world differently opens you out. You cease to be trapped in your own narrow perspective in the same way.
When do we have time for ideas? When can we be inspired, put together new thoughts, have Eureka moments? The daydreaming mind is open, experimental, playful, pondering. New things can arise from it. It’s not always the most serious, grounded, reasonable thoughts that go on to change the world. Wild, outrageous thinking is needed the challenge the status quo, and overturn systems of government. You don’t cast off slavery without first thinking radically. You don’t travel to the stars if you haven’t first dreamed of reaching them. An idea only seems ridiculous if no one has dared to dream it properly.
When might spirit or deity try to talk to us? When we are closed and focused down on being busy with a thing, or when our minds are open and free ranging?
If you’re properly daydreaming, you aren’t consuming. You aren’t using resources or being a useful little unit of production. You aren’t hurting anyone. You aren’t bored. Even if the daydreams themselves are of no use to you or anyone else, you are exploring your creativity. For the person bent on utility, it’s worth noting that the creative ‘muscle’ generated by daydreaming is there for more deliberate problem solving and inspiration seeking as well.
From the smallest dreams of a better life to the most spectacular and complex alternative realities, we are richer for our dreams, and for our daydreaming.