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The Escapism of Life

December 9, 2011

The vast majority of psychology experts would refer to an activity as a form of escapism only when its considered (by societal standards, for example) to be detrimental to that person’s well-being. For example: drugs and alcohol are escapism because they lead to addiction, DUIs, and irrational thinking; video games are escapism because they obliterate the incentive to interact in the “real world”, and workaholics are escapists in that they use work to escape from family problems, which ultimately leads to self-destructive ends.

But my understanding of escapism is a bit different; let me suggest the more broad and all-encompassing definition: Escapism is the human tendency to escape from reality, because reality isn’t good enough. That’s a simple way of putting it, but it seems that simplicity has done little more than further confuse the readers, so I will give a few examples:

When you go for a walk to clear your head, you are ‘escaping’ from a chaotic (either internally or externally) environment. When you have sex, you use that good feeling to escape the emptiness inside, or the otherwise meaninglessness of the relationship. When you go shopping, it’s to escape the lack of control over your life. Hmmmm, still not getting it? Let’s step back a little then–

The reason you have a religion (even if that religion is Atheism, or something more philosophical like Agnosticism or Buddhism) is because you are escaping from a lack of purpose; the reason you vote and participate in the political process, is to escape from powerlessness; the reason you have friends, or a girlfriend, is to escape from loneliness.

Put simply, Life itself is escapism. It is human nature to live life motivated by a need to escape the now, because for whatever reason, what one already has, isn’t good enough. We want more, and so we escape from the present state of things, to a new life. We are the caterpillar that transformed into a butterfly, and soon after decided that being the butterfly wasn’t good enough either. Life as we know it is a struggle of escapism driven by selfish greed, and that struggle will only end when we let go of our Ego and its selfish desires.

But of course, there is another way of looking at it: embracing reality. One could say that “I’m not escaping the old way of doing things, I’m just embracing the new.” In the same way, a person could justify escaping an old relationship because the new girl is more entertaining, more intelligent, more inspirational, gives better sex….every form of escapism could, simply by changing the perspective we look at things, convert escaping, into embracing.

Nevertheless, they are really just two different ways of looking at the same thing, and no matter what way you frame it– this malcontent and subsequent need for more, better, new– it’s selfish, there really is no end to it. If you want peace, you’re going to have to learn to be satisfied with what you already have, and settle for what you’ve already been given. The desire for more only leads to a lack of content, to greed, to unhappiness.

But nevertheless, Escapism is a necessity.

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