Escapism

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about fantasy. As I sit here this morning, drinking my rapidly-cooling coffee, the topic remains on my mind, if in a slightly different context. I think, perhaps, I should have pursued a career in psychology, given my attraction to the mysteries of the human mind. But such an assessment inevitably leads to regrets. I do not need any more of those at this moment. So I’ll try to avoid thinking of myself in terms of “what might have been.” That frame of mind is too bleak. I’ll try to think, instead, that my vivid fantasy life is an indicator of my brain’s youthful flexibility and still-active potential.

But let’s be realistic. Some fantasies are impossible. For example, my fantasy about being a middle-aged Scandinavian. No matter how badly I want to be a 43-year-old Dane or a 51-year-old Norwegian, it’s not going to happen. It’s simply impossible. So why even entertain such unattainable fantasies? Why bother dreaming of attaining the unreachable? I suppose it’s a means of escape from life that sometimes feels like it’s taking place inside a cage with hardened steel bars sealed behind platinum locks. Escapism, pure and simple. Maybe that’s what I need from time to time. Or always.

But some fantasies are not outlandish and impossible. Recently, I read an article that suggested realistic fantasies sometimes serve as motivational triggers and actionable propellants. They establish goals with clearly definable interim checkpoints. People who indulge fantasies as cues or realistic aspirations worthy of expending efforts to achieve them have a much better chance of reaching those goals than do people who simply daydream about them. That is, people whose fantasies spur them to incremental actions tend to reach those goals, whereas people who fail to use the fantasies as motivators tend not to. The theory sounds reasonable. I don’t recall, though, whether it was based on research or simply on “common sense.”

My writing tends to incorporate, whether explicitly or through tangential reference, my fantasies. As my sixty-seventh birthday looms just over a month and a half away, I wonder whether old men (and women) who dream of different variations of their futures (that is, people who indulge in fantasy) are deluding themselves.  Achievement of fantasies one embraces in youth and middle age, I would think, tends to have a better chance of occurring than the wishes and dreams that emerge later in life. No matter how youthful I think my brain might be, the body surrounding it is in an accelerating state of decay; that’s true for most of us after we reach our youthful prime.

Somewhere along the line, though, I’m sure I’ve heard and/or read an adage that says something to the effect that “you’re never too old to dream.” I suppose that’s true, though at some point dreaming or fantasies become magical thinking, completely untethered to reality. Would it be good to know precisely when that severance takes place? Or would that knowledge have an ugly impact on one’s sense of well-being…one’s sense of purpose?

I’m afraid many, if not most, people in my sphere would think fantasies/dreams/wishes/ aspirations/etc. at my stage of life are wastes of mental energy—exercises in futility that serve no useful purpose. “Responsible adults do not engage in nonsensical fantasy,” I imagine hearing some of them say. “Who says I’m a responsible adult?” I might reply. My response would vary, depending on context: my mood, the state of affairs in my immediate realm, etc., etc., etc. Whether attainable or not, though, fantasies can provide relief from the burdens of day-to-day life. Escape. Temporary freedom from the realities of a planet whose occupants, more often than not, appear to have gone mad and intent on suicide or, if I might coin a term, humanicide. [As an aside, sometimes I think neologisms emerge from need. With a hat tip to Woody Allen, I am not entirely opposed to humanicide, but I do not think I want to be present when it takes place.]

Seriously, I frequently wonder about fantasy and whether my active fantasy life is evidence of my insanity or simply an outgrowth of writing fiction. I might turn that around, though, and say my fiction is simply a symptom of my insanity. Writing about the questions, I suppose, is as much escapism as is the creation in my mind of communities of like-minded people who love one another, live to serve, and treat the natural world with the respect and dignity it deserves. I’ll have to write more about those communities; my ideas about urban and rural pockets that represent the “salvation” of humanity.

The thunder and lightning outside suggest I should turn off and unplug my computer, lest it be fried like the recent experience with my phone system, television, and DVD player!

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to Escapism

  1. My degree is in sociology, Meg. I misspent my career in association management, the last several years as co-owner with my wife of an association management company. The role necessarily involved writing; it may be the only aspect of the career than had any intrinsic value. Thanks for the complement.

  2. Meg Koziar says:

    I’ve never thought to ask before – you didn’t study psychology, what did you study? What was your profession? Did it involve writing, at which you are obviously highly skilled?

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