If you watch a movie, you see people acting as if everything is real. Couples who are married in real life act as if married to someone else in the movie. Everything looks real and perhaps even feels real to the actors. To me this is very dangerous: for a married person to act married to someone else could lead to real problems. But people like to live in imaginary worlds. This is one of the biggest problems in today’s society fueled by social media, movies, tik tok and all kinds of other platforms where people display imaginary lives and make others wish for a life that is not theirs.
People sit and watch movies that are not even true and cry with the characters, get emotionally involved and even waste time discussing the movie as if the story has validity to it…..when you think about it, it is ridiculous. But why do people do that? Because people are unhappy with their lives and everyone is searching for happiness and meaning in life.
What is true happiness? Is it living your dreams and fulfilling your imagination of happiness? No, that cannot be the definition of true happiness. Nevertheless, a huge percentage of the population lives like that and has expectations of achieving happiness when they achieve their dreams or when their imaginary world becomes alive. Some people live their entire lives in their imagination. Some people can never appreciate the moment because their minds are elsewhere.
So what is happiness? Are we even supposed to pursue happiness? Is that the purpose of life?
Of course we all want to be happy. We want to serve God with joy. But does that joy depend on our circumstances of life, or is it an inner joy based on meaning and purpose?
Torah teaches us that joy has to come from within and it has to be based on serving God. It has to be based on something higher than our own imaginations and limited minds. Otherwise we will just end up dissatisfied in life and frustrated.
A single person who imagines a certain type of spouse (based on what they see in movies etc.) may not even recognize their soul mate if it does not match the imaginary criteria in their minds. This is dangerous.
Unrectified imagination is one of the plagues of todays’ modern world.
Correcting that involves getting our ideas straight, understanding our purpose and our meaning in life and working for a higher purpose. Striving for our own happiness based on what we want to do is not a higher purpose. It is actually a lower purpose. Striving to make others happy, help others, fulfill what God wants from us is striving for a higher purpose. That will lead to happiness and inner fulfillment because both are connected.
If I want to travel but I cannot, should I sit and be sad? If I want to marry someone like a movie star but I cannot, should I become depressed? All of those things are based on wrong imagination and wrong expectations.
If however I want to fulfill what God wants for me at any given moment, then my exact circumstances right now have to bring me happiness. Even if the circumstances are difficult or challenging? Yes, even then, because this is what God wants me to fulfill. If we can thank God and rejoice in our present situation, we are truly happy. If our happiness is based on something external to ourselves, or something based on unrealistic imagination, then we cannot really be happy.
That is the problem in society. That is why so many people suffer from anxiety, depression, worry, sadness etc. Because people do not know how to be happy anymore. People do not know how to cope with reality so they want to escape from it. This is why videos, movies, social media is so harmful and yet so popular. Kids who are unhappy want to escape and go into a false world…that is why people turn to drugs or to imaginary shows etc. etc.
How do we get back enthusiasm in what is important (Torah, mitzvot, family, proper parent child relationships, healthy marriages etc.)? It is through living life according to what God prescribes and wants. And that includes being very present in the moment for your kids, for your spouse, for your friends and even for yourself. Make a big deal out of what is important. Let your children see what is truly important to God and make it fun for them. If they look forward to Shabbat and to stories you will tell them about tzadikim and miracles, and they look forward to the delicious foods of Shabbat and the family gathering, they will feel happy. That givers them an oasis of tranquility in the middle of a chaotic world. If however they do not see enthusiasm at home, they will feel bored and be impatiently waiting for shabbat to be over so they can go on their phones etc. It becomes an unhealthy addiction.
That is why we need to create a healthy environment at home and be a living example to our children.
The world is very challenging today but we can face the challenge, see the light from the darkness, and bring redemption to the world by increasing true happiness based on true values. Let us imagine the times of Moshiach, the third beit hamikdash….that is what our imagination should be busy with! That is a healthy imagination which can rectify the false worldly imagination most people have fallen into. Living as if we are in the times of Moshiach is the only healthy “acting” we should do. May we merit redemption immediately!