Pretending vs. Pursuing A Different Life

To me, there is no more fitting a day to listen to Symphonie Fantastique than Halloween. French composer Hector Berlioz’s musical rendition of the life of an artist—an experience accentuated for the desperate, lovelorn hero by an overdose of opium—takes the listener through the artist’s tortured visions of his ideal lover all the way to the final movement entitled “Dreams of a Witches’ Sabbath” where he witnesses his own funeral. The strange drama of this musical adventure invites us to recall our own experiences of falling down a rabbit hole, interacting with characters whose deceptive appearance confuses and confounds us as we stumble our way along life’s path.


Many adults enjoy Halloween because it offers a sanctioned excuse to pretend that they are not who they say they are. This momentary escape from reality appears to be an irresistible opportunity, one I don’t particularly understand because as flawed as I am and as far away from ideal my life is right now, I wouldn’t want to be anyone other than me. I guess we all enjoy the occasional fantasy of living a different life from the one we have, the wistful “what ifs,” the path not taken. What intrigues me is the difference between those who resign themselves to the belief that reinvention of self is only pretend versus those of us who are brave enough to imagine a different life and then take steps in that direction.


Like the opium-inspired exaggerations of Berlioz’s artist, whatever prevents us from pursuing our elusive goal appears much more daunting than it is in reality. Unlike the  children depicted by the Brothers Grimm, we are more nimble and resilient than ogres and dragons. Instead of scaring ourselves silly with inflated fears, we re-booters remind ourselves that no story worth telling is obstacle-free. What makes the hero heroic is overcoming those challenges and accomplishing the goal. More often than not, what was standing in his way was…himself. Just like Dorothy learning to adjust her understanding of what “home” means to her, a shift in perspective makes a world of difference for re-booters determined to redefine their lives.


Speaking of heroes, one of Hercules’ labors was the task of cleaning the Augean stables in a single day—the challenge appeared to be impossible due to the enormous quantity of dung that had accumulated (resulting in widespread pestilence throughout the land). Hercules approached King Augeas promising to accomplish this goal, in exchange for a portion of his herd; seeing this as an opportunity to humiliate the hero, the monarch acceded. Because Hercules recognized that what was required involved more than his ordinary abilities, he devised a different approach, diverting two nearby rivers to clean out the stables. Our hero exploited available resources in innovative ways to make the impossible, possible. How might you utilize your talents in new ways to reach your goal?


The leaves here in Washington are rapidly changing from brilliant yellows to scarlet reds. I love the way they glow in the afternoon sunshine as a cold breeze reminds me that Old Man Winter is on his way. Time stops for no one, so instead of dressing up on Halloween and pretending we live a different life, we need to go out there and do it. The scary shadows we think we see are nothing more than mist; it takes courage to pursue a different path, a willingness to hold our breath and plunge forward. No costume required.


If you could change one thing about your life today—something within your power to change–what would it be



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One Response to “Pretending vs. Pursuing A Different Life”

  1. grasshopper Says:

    love it! you’ve got me thinking…

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