Many of us, myself included, read and write stories for their escapist quality. When work is tedious and stressful, the kids are creating chaos and refusing to go to sleep at a reasonable hour, and the household chores never-ending, who wouldn't want to trade that all in for a couple of hours of excitement, romance, and fun? Unfortunately, the book eventually has to come to an end, and we're returned to our ordinary lives, which may seem even more mundane in comparison. Can fantasy (or fiction in general) help us make our personal lives more meaningful, or as Emily says in Our Town, "Do any human beings realize life while they live it--every, every minute?" I certainly don't; I'm neither a saint nor a poet. But as a scientist and fantasy/science fiction writer, experiencing a sense of wonder and sharing it with others is important to me. It's hard to make this happen when your To Do List is a mile long, but it's still important to stop from time to time and appreciate life.
Sometimes one can also find inspiration in fiction to become more heroic in one's daily life. For example, consider Katherine Blake's The Interior Life. The story starts with Susan, a stay-at-home housewife who has just sent her children off to school and has to clean the house. As she does dishes, she imagines a princess and her servant in a fantastic land and pictures the servant cleaning up the keep, just as Susan is doing in real life. As the princess embarks on a quest, Susan makes changes to improve her own life. It's been several years since I've read the story, even though I still have the book. But I remember enjoying how the parallel stories intertwined, and I enjoyed watching Susan change as much as I did the princess quest plot.
I'd love to discuss this topic further, but the title of this post gave me a story idea, and I should work on it before it slips away.