I said recently my writing is, for me, escapism. Escape from what, though? Specifically, from what does writing allow me to escape? When I insist on an answer, I feel like I’m taking on the identity of an unwilling patient, prodded and poked by a psychiatrist or psychologist and forced to divulge secrets to which I am not privy. It occurs to me that my role is judge, jury, prosecutor, defendant, and executioner; the finding of guilt was predetermined from the start, as evidenced by the fact that there is no defense counsel in the mix. The sentence, death by guillotine, seems harsh for a parking infraction. My thoughts seem to stretch around themselves like rubber bands; if the stress on elastic materials exceeds their elasticity, all hell breaks loose.

Writing is an insufficient escape. Escape involves digging tunnels and plotting ways to disable the guard for long enough to allow me to steal a get-away car. But maybe the prison has no walls, so tunnels and guards are not obstacles to escape. Maybe, instead, the obstacles are imaginary chains whose links cannot be broken with bolt cutters. Perhaps the chain’s links are hollow tubes, bent into ovals inside which my arteries and veins form intricate circulation patterns that cannot be safely interrupted. Ah, so it’s fear that prevents my escape? No, that’s not it. It must be something more powerful than fear. Few things are more powerful than fear.

Five years ago today, I captured the perfection that is chaos. I articulated escapism in words that cannot be enhanced. This is what I wrote:

Much is said about symmetry, but little about the divide between symmetry and satisfaction. We need a little chaos in our lives to appreciate perfect circles and dodecahedrons.

That having been said, I was mesmerized yesterday when I stumbled across an assertion that a tetrated dodecahedron is a near-miss Johnson solid—one with full tetrahedral symmetry—that has 28 vertices, 28 faces, and 54 edges. That explanation provided all the chaos my mind needed.

That escape took me places my mind had never been before and has rarely been since. It took me to a place where trouble cannot find a foothold, where worry is illegal, and where pleasure accompanies every breath one takes. Did I mention nirvana yesterday? It can be found only in the states of intense presence and utter absence. Escapism is available all along that spectrum, but nirvana only at both far ends.


I purposely avoid writing much about Independence Day, the Fourth of July. If I were to write what I feel about that celebratory moment, I would be branded a traitor. Yet from my perspective, only by refusing to celebrate the hypocrisy of promises made versus actions taken can one truly be patriotic to an ideal. Only by acknowledging unforgivable flaws can forgiveness be received. Only by exposing and condemning oppression and imperialism and exploitation can we burnish the ideals that have been so badly tarnished by the mockery we have made of them.

I do not fly a flag. I read the Declaration of Independence and note the phrase “the merciless Indian Savages” in defending the decision to announce independence. I have pride in my country, but my pride is tempered with the knowledge that many of the great accomplishments of this nation were built on a foundation of genocide and slavery.

When we live up to the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, I am enormously proud. When we are reckless in our disregard for our ideals, I get disappointed and embarrassed. When we celebrate our imperfections as though they were lofty goals, I get angry.

Enough about this Independence Day.

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. Meg, I don’t take the S-R, but would be interested in the column. I do not joyously celebrate, in part, because today’s actions are so incredibly far-removed from yesterday’s promises. I think I judge today by the standards of yesterday (standards articulated in the form of promises), not vice versa.

  2. Meg KoiE says:

    Considering your Independence day comments: Good column in today’s Sentinel Record by Dana D. Kelly about not judging yesterday by the standards of today. So Thomas Jefferson had slaves. He also wrote anti-slavery essays. Are we going to throw away all that he did in the founding of the US because he owned slaves? What about FDR’s mistress?

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