Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Walter Mitty and me; daydreaming and the creativity and the society.

I was thinking about the term that I used often which made professor Arvan confused while I was enjoying 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty'. It was the term 'efficiency'. I abruptly found the reason why I was using it in such a manner which he was quite confused to understand. In South Korea, we broadly use the term 'efficiency' or 'efficient' describing some kind of process which has no waste in terms of time. In other words, it's the fastest, and possibly the most effective way to handle something. It has similar meanings with the economic term 'efficiency', but I was trying to describe things in such a manner, just like I used the term 'efficiency' in Korean. No wonder he was unclear with the term with an abbreviated meaning.

That was just a small thing that I wanted to mention, and now, allow me to go on to my thoughts about daydreaming, fit into a social context, which is related to our last discussion.

First of all, I was quite interested that professor showed such a huge interest in the Korean/Chinese high school system. I knew how it was in the states in high schools although I've never attended one myself, thanks to some friends that I've met after I came here. I usually brought the Korean high school life into the conversation when my American friends were whining about how difficult their high school life was. Although it sounds quite harsh for students to be so pressured for their high school years studying for the single goal, the college entrance exam, the students in those Asian countries actually have no other choice but to follow the peer pressure that is created by the atmosphere of the society's over-competing nature.

It was slightly different from daydreaming, but I frequently looked up on the bright, sky-blue sky in May while I was memorizing the words for the June/July SAT tests. My teacher would come to me and slap the back of my head while saying "Stop idling around and memorize the vocabularies. You really can just look at the sky when your SAT score is like that?" However, when I read the part where Walter Mitty was saying "'I'm thinking.' said Walter Mitty. 'Does it ever occur to you that I am sometimes thinking?'", I felt the situational difference between me and Walter.

It's quite depressing when I see in retrospect while comparing it with the Walter Mitty story. I would justify my past situation with the idea that 'I was forced' to give up my freedom for daydreaming, which was an open window to my creativity, by the authority (which would be teachers in this case). However, I am still here, fitting in the society quite well. It almost makes me feel like it's all good even though I do not think creatively, since I have no problems living on without it plus the fact that other great minds who are able to think creatively do those thoughts for me (and the society overall). This is the point where I think the social structure fits in as one of the most important conditions for being creative. Not personal mindsets nor personal endeavors, but social structure. If the authorities push the laypeople with certain amount of force, the mindsets will bend over time. As a result, cultivation will take place in the society and will mark itself as an important trend or concept, until a major social change takes place going against that trend (e.g. technological change which replaces studying with some other social substitute. I really can't think of anything specific at this moment, hard to imagine anything like that.) Maybe someday, daydreaming like Walter Mitty would be a social trend if the authorities softly, but genuinely forces those things as a desirable aspect in the society.

I actually try to force myself to have some moment of idleness these days more than the usual days, looking out the vividly sky-blue sky as spring came. My room has a beautiful view of the Champaign area toward the campus, with the building being constructed at the junction of Green and fourth. I hardly come up with a ground-breaking idea or something even minutely close, but really enjoy the time of looking up the sky without thinking about anything else during lunch while I listen to a cello piece of Bach inventions. I definitely would have been more happy if I started these things earlier in my life.


  1. The story. I will comment on the post later.

  2. More trivia on Daydreaming. When I was a kid there was a Rock star named John Sebastian. He had a hit song called Daydream. The video is really great and not just for the song. His hair and clothes are both fantastic.

  3. When I read the first paragraph of the story, I could imagine the scene vividly and started wondering what happen next. But when I continued reading the second paragraph, it was a surprise, There is a very interesting contrast when the author mix the daydreaming part with real life.

    Actually I found myself daydreaming from time to time. For example, before I registered for next semester class, I made a detailed schedule plan for the classes I want to take. But when I was actually typing in the course number, I was thinking about "if we have course like equestrian I would definitely register for that." And then I imagined how fun it would be if I could take a class for horse riding in a nice weather like these days in early April. It is a such random thought that I have no idea where it comes from. Maybe it's just because I have several experience with horse riding and love the exciting moment when the horse runs very fast.

    I do feel day dreaming is a way to relax and it sometimes triggers creativity. I have a little brochure in which I write down some random ideas I come up with when I am daydreaming such as "earphone with four earbuds so that two people can share the music at the same time!" or some tunes I have in mind during my daydreaming time. Sometimes I'll look through it and found some of them are really interesting. Sometimes I don't even understand what I was writing about. Daydreaming is not efficient on surface for many people. While it could be a constant energy that flows in you and maybe someday it would trigger a great idea.

  4. On Friday I hope we can reflect on the James Thurber story itself for some time before we ask how it is relevant to us. Likewise, we might spend a little time on the John Sebastian song. You might begin thinking about this by asking whether they daydream for the same reasons or not. You might also ask why these were so popular (though they appeared 30 years apart).