Forms of Escapism

I’ve been thinking lately that the fates of so many are motivated by, in a word, escapism. Including my own fate. These are folks whose lives seem quite different on first glance, but turn out to be similar. We can’t escape some of our basic human nature after all.

The Preservationist

These are folks who, for lack of a better term, wish to preserve a “simpler time”. They are people such as Thoreau, who wanted a return to simpler times and aspired to self-sufficiency (or an approximation, in any case). They are folks such as the Amish, who saw no good in the coming changes, and decided to create an ideal society in the form of a living time capsule.

I also think backpackers and wilderness-goers fit into this category. Their journeys may be temporary escapes from city life, but they are escapes nonetheless.

The Preservationists stand against progress, for various reasons. These folks are most easily labeled escapists: their main drive is motivated by a desire to escape the progress of the world.

The Progressive

Perhaps controversially, I think the folks on the other end of the spectrum can also be placed with escapists, maybe in a small way.

The folks pushing progress are not satisfied with the world as it is, but instead of abandoning it (as the Preservationists do), they seek to improve their world from within.

They seek to to escape from the present world by changing it. And perhaps we’ve all wanted to change the world at one point or another, perhaps while we were young, and surely a long whole before we accepted that comfortable desk job at The Company.

The Traveler

Travelers are easily escapists, but they are temporary escapists, of course. (The more “permanent travelers” are what we call expatriots.)

Travelers are not necessarily unsatisfied with their current curcumstances, but their main drive for adventure of course requires them to escape from their everday routine. Or perhaps they just need a vacation, or as we so often say, an escape.

The traveler gets to experience an idealized, whitewashed version of everyday routine in some other part of the world. The real routine, revealed with time, isn’t as pretty as it seems. However, this is not to deny that a routine in a part of the world might be better than a routine in some other part of the world.

Actually, this must necessarily be the case, as it seems ridiculous to say that daily life all over the world is equally suited to everyone.

The Recluse

Our present technology is bringing the world together in many ways, as well as enabling reclusive people to more successfully live a literally sheltered life. These folks are paradoxes – Thoreaus who live among us in cities, even if they are rarely seen.

It helps the Recluse that we can now work, bank, and shop for food entirely online, enabling people to stay inside longer than ever before. Technology designed to bring us closer together ironically has stifled real-life interaction, making all of us a little more distant.

Whatever bad things we may think about The Recluse, we have to remind ourselves that there’s a little bit of Recluse in all of us. Who hasn’t ever been exhausted and decided to spend a “lazy Sunday” indoors, never bothering to even get dressed?

The Suicide

I saved the worst for last – the most extreme escapist is surely the person who removes themselves violently from the world. Perhaps they have tried the other forms of escapism, and perhaps they haven’t. Perhaps they think they know the ways of the world and are weary of it. But perhaps they are mistaken, and haven’t yet tried living other lives.

I’ve also been world-weary. At various points in my life I’ve felt this way, but have always wanted to try for something better without wanting to give up. This is what I’d advise anyone who feels this way: your feeling is one of extreme escapism, but perhaps there are other ways to escape. Ways which are less violent. Ways which still allow you to contact your family and friends.

Suicide is such an extreme form of escape, but the reason I wrote this post is to show that these feelings of escapism are widespread, and that they need not result in an “ultimate escape”.

The drive to escape, in its various forms, is widespread. I think it’s part of what defines us as human. And these different ways of coping are what define us as individuals.