Today on the train home from work, I did everything I could to avoid engaging with a young guy who was telling everyone who’d listen a long string of improbable anecdotes. If it weren’t for the desperate, almost involuntary, urge he had to share his fantasy life, I might have thought he was having a laugh. Instead it was clear he was somewhere along the path of a serious mental health problem and it got me thinking, again, about that line between imagination and ‘crazy thinking’.
As I walk down the streets and ride the trains of my day-to-day life I am constantly in a fantasy world, imagining things and places that don’t exist. In my mind’s eye I’m conducting thought experiments that put me or other people into extreme situations and make them heroes and villains. While I journey with my characters I live hundreds of fantastical lives and if I sat down and told complete strangers (or even people I know) all about them like that guy was, they’d worry for my mental health too.
It’s always struck me as a great blessing to have a big, uncontrollable imagination, but there is something a little scary about it too, and when I see someone who’s on the way to losing sight of the line between fantasy and reality, I marvel at how fluid that line is.