In my experience life is full of things that are more enjoyable than reality. I would rather lose myself in the fantasy world of a book, movie or game than drag myself through a day of work. I don’t feel like that’s a very controversial opinion. Don’t most people prefer to take part in their hobbies over doing things that are required of them? Yet, even though that’s the case the topic of escapism is a divisive one. Maybe I’m just a product of my generation but I sincerely doubt that’s the only explanation. Even looking into the so called “good old days” we can find evidence that nobody has ever wanted to do work. Ever. Just look at good old Tom Sawyer. Well before the days of electronic entertainment we have a relatable tidbit about a boy who just wants to avoid work at all cost. I understand that Tom Sawyer is something of a notorious douchebag but that doesn’t make his goal any less valid. So my question for today is, why escape escapism?
In my life I’ve engaged in plenty of harmful activity all the way from the mundane practice of not getting enough sleep to the obviously ill-advised binge drinking. In the middle of there somewhere would probably fall my dependence on media to maintain a positive lifestyle. I’m sure the argument for not allowing escapism into your life would be mainly financial given that time is money and it’s hard to make money sitting on your ass all day. To that I say phooey. Given, I’m no millionaire- hell I don’t even have a thousand bucks in a savings account but I do a bit more than get by. At times in my life I’ve worked 60-80 hour weeks just to get by and what I learned from those times is to enjoy your freedom from work as much as you can. Maybe it’s a bad habit, but I live for the day. Sure, one could posit an argument that my philosophy is incorrect in and of itself but I believe sweeping philosophical debate is best saved for another time. To that end if we acknowledge that my lifestyle is a valid one then again we’re left at a loss for why to denigrate escapism.
We live in a savage world where it seems that everybody is ailing from one malady or another and, as a result, we must try and find ways to cope with our surroundings. Some might argue that by engaging in escapism one becomes unable or unwilling to interact with and correct the flaws in the reality they are seeking to avoid. However, part of the definition of escapism involves seeking relief from unpleasant realities. I believe the key word there is “relief.” If I were to seek relief from the heat by jumping into a cool lake that doesn’t mean that I never plan to get back to dealing with my initial problem of the hot day. It’s not as if by that action of seeking relief I have planned to simply exist in this body of water for the rest of my life; I just needed a break. In the same way I believe that people are capable of multiple lines of thought at the same time. An individual who is currently focused on, for example, a death in the family can still find the ability to smile or laugh at a favorite comedian. I think it’s the same for most subjects. In my experience it is difficult to remain laser focused on one and only one topic for large swaths of time. Entropy is the basic state of the universe so why should we always defy our brains tendency to roam.
To be frank, I think escaping reality from time to time is a good thing it allows one’s mind to re-attain that natural state of entropy. Because of this, when you run into a problem that has no immediate resolution often it’s best to move away from it, focus on something else and give yourself a chance to view it with fresh eyes. In the same way if you’re having a rough patch at work, school, or with family maybe it would be productive to take some time to escape into something you love. Existing for a short while in a world of fantasy may just give you the clarity of thought that will allow you to turn around your misfortunes. This perspective should give you a reason to stop and think next time you feel that pang of guilt for binging a series on Netflix or “wasting” a day on an old favorite game. Maybe what you’ve really done is give yourself the respite you didn’t even know you needed.
-Mitchell K. Drummond, Contributor and Co-Creator of Heck Media