What dictionary says about ‘escapism’ is – “An inclination to retreat from unpleasant realities through diversion or fantasy.” But, it doesn’t say a word about what kind of realities or fantasies are they?
When I first came across this coined word, I pondered a lot about my own past. There had been many situations where I had retreated back, often unconsciously, illogically. But if it were a kind of an escapist attitude, there must have been some reasons behind my escape. Only the sense of running away couldn’t have driven me away; there must have been some other factors, local or global, that might have urged me to run away. Then, I sat down to analyze my course of actions in the hindsight.
I noticed a strange thing, that was, in most of the cases, those realities or those fantasies were my own – self made. I had created them, because I believed in them, because I wanted to believe in them, because I wanted to deny myself something that was perhaps more real. In his book, Paulo Coelho examines a similar situation.
A boy and a girl drove to a trench beyond the country, and saw an old church. By the time, they arrived to the church, it was mid-afternoon, and an old man who sat by the well outside the church stopped them from going inside. They persuaded the old man but in vain. After an hour of horse-trading with the old man, the boy decided to go inside the church and hence decided to run the risk of police. The girl was scared but he went along. When they came out, the old man was gone. And there was no police. The boy explained the girl: sometimes we need to devise a play in order to cease our own reality, and to see the world as we want it to be. And when we don’t succeed in playing the play alone, we invite others into it. That old man was on a similar course. He wanted us to take part in his play and play the role of a victim.
But now, the question is: how often we play with ourselves?…any answers?
Recently, I fell prey to another play. I wanted to change my apartment and hence contacted a near-by provision-store-man. I had a good relation with him and we used to talk quite often. Once, in a barrage of talks, he had told me about his various contacts with various builders across the city. Then, I didn’t realize that that piece of talk was nothing but a confabulation – a part of his personal play only to keep himself warm from the hard realities of his anonymity, where I played a role unknowingly and expected a real output. Days later, when I inquired about the possible apartment, I was assured and then reassured. When I asked about money, I was said not to worry about that.
The play was going so well that I decided to assume it real. And there I fell down. I created one fallacy for myself, and I started playing it.
I kept searching for him to show me the apartment and he kept pretending busy. I asked his son, who stood by the shop in his absence, too but nothing happened. I phoned him also, only to be reassured again. He gave me one date and then the next, but he never showed up.
Yesterday night, as I was coming back from office, and because it was late, I saw him around his shop. As soon as I reached, he retreated backwards and hid behind his shop. I noticed that. He noticed that. I didn’t stop by and went ahead.
Then I understood the difference between fallacy and reality.
Nothing is real. “Fallacies that are accepted by more number of people are realities”. Just like that.
And escapism is a rout to segue from fallacy to reality, and vice versa.
Is there anything wrong with it? I guess, none. It’s not pernicious to live vicarious. Is it? Moreover, when the second man is you yourself.
When I talked to Anirudh about it, he said escapism is a trait of optimism. Only an optimist can leave behind his efforts and dart forward. (To create the play and to dream a dream, you need efforts. Don’t you?)
What I believe is: it’s more like being ready with ‘plan-B’. You are working on ‘plan-A’ and as soon as it fails, you run away from it, and settle down with ‘plan-B’.
When I was in engineering school, I used to neglect my academics for software. I used to devote most of my time in learning new computer languages and techie stuffs. Now when, I am in software industry, I tend to avoid coding. Now I am more prone to literature and psychology and philosophy. Is it my ‘plan-B’? Am I escaping from myself?
Dreaming is good; but how about living in dreams?