When I was a wee lass the woman down the street was very concerned that I was out of touch with "reality."
My mother assured her that I was playing pretend.
I was a very good play pretender. I rarely said things like:
"Let's pretend there is a little man living in an underground house beneath our own house."
Instead I said:
"The little man won't answer the door under my bed. Something might have happened to him. I'm going outside to find him."
I knew the trick to the best kind of play was not saying "Let's pretend," or "I'm only pretending." I knew that all play was equally real and unreal, that bravery, kindness, and trust were true whether you were dreaming, pretending, telling a story or playing "real life."
Certain truths are especially hard to grasp in "real life." Fairy tales and certain types of pretend can remind us, show us, and teach us the things that are not allowed or are undervalued in "real life."
They can remind us that "real life" is a game we began to play long ago, a very dangerous game in which you choose masks to wear and insist they are the real you, a game that demands that no other games, no other stories, no other worlds are "real." They are ONLY pretend, and only the "real life" game is important.
And if you play "real life" with us and play it well we will love you, and be proud of you, and you will feel safe, never needing to worry about the unknown, about the dark, about the mysterious, or about the possibility that you yourself are less "real" and not in fact the masks you have been wearing, but rather an innocent traveler who stumbled into a deadly serious game with eternal consequences; that you may never be able to leave the game because you will be convinced that you are not playing a game but rather are having a "real life."
And what if you were so lucky that someone stronger, someone with a better memory of the multicolored land beyond "real life", started to play a different game with you, a game that bleed into "real life", and you started asking yourself, "What is real?"
Not just, "Is this a real game? Or something else?" but "Is 'real life' real?"
And what if by asking yourself these questions, rather than asking your benevolent benefactor (who could never actually answer these questions for you) you began to remember that you aren't "real", that you are a pretender, a storyteller, a dreamer, a liar trapped by deadly seriousness (a.k.a gravity) in a heavy game. A game in which your abilities to play have atrophied, a game that didn't just start when you were born, because actually time is a function of the "real life" game and you have been trapped on the wheel of "real life" for much "longer" than you realized.
And what if you remembered this for a moment and began to learn to play again thanks to a trickster who started playing a game within a game with you and called it deadly serious...
What if? What if?
“If you are a dreamer come in
If you are a dreamer a wisher a liar
A hoper a pray-er a magic-bean-buyer
If youre a pretender com sit by my fire
For we have some flax golden tales to spin
― Shel Silverstein
So let's not say, "let's pretend." We're better pretenders than that. Let us be open hearted and true whether our experience is real or imagined. Let us play in earnest, let us play with levity, and flexibility (fluxability?) and bravery, and kindness, and trust.
Let us play in bright axiom.