As I have been considering my own life, and watching the lives of those around me, I am starting to notice a disturbing trend. This is is something that has been bothering me for a long time, though it is only recently that I feel as though I have been able to qualify what it is. Simply put...
We have become a society of Escapists.
I don't know when this started...maybe humans have always been this way, but now when I look at humans, the things we do (and don't do), there seems to be an undeniable theme running through it all. If I could attempt to sum it up in a handful of words it would be:
We are terrified of so many things, and who can blame us really? War, disease, poverty, evil, suffering, all of these things are shoved down our throats day in and day out courtesy of our "news" channels.
But beyond things that could be considered justifiably terrifying, we have become a people terrified of feeling any level of discomfort. It is one thing to want to avoid the feeling of being beaten to within an inch of your life, and quite another to be unable to handle the discomfort of your Netflix movie loading too slowly. We have gone to such an extreme place of total refusal to do anything that makes us uncomfortable in any way, that I am truly terrified of what we are becoming.
Of course, it is hard to tell if this is straight up fear, entitlement, apathy, or a combination of all of these things. More than likely they are all at play, and all feeding off one another like some self-sustaining parasite orgy. But regardless of the reasoning, it would appear that the result is the same.
Don't believe me? Let me give you just a couple of examples:
1. We escape into imaginary worlds: Video games, Avatars, Facebook, Porn,Online Role playing, Catfishing, Pintrest, and so on.
We are so dissatisfied with our own lives and with REALITY as we see it, that we feel a need to escape into fantasy instead of doing the actual work to make our lives exactly what we want them to be. We are so uncomfortable with real human emotion and the responsibility and energy and selflessness that it takes to be in a real relationship, that we opt for one that we can "login" to and leave whenever it suits us.
Can't deal with rejection? Create a world where rejection doesn't exist. Afraid of commitment? Keep a stable of casual relationships that you pick up and set down whenever you have a need to scratch that itch. Terrified of the vulnerability that comes from true intimacy? Sign up for a pornographic website where the illusion of intimacy is bought and sold like any other tangible commodity on this planet.
But above all things, you must avoid actual human interaction and the feelings, emotions, commitments, efforts, peaks, valleys, and vulnerabilities that go along with them if you wish to truly spare yourself from truly feeling anything but self-indulgent pleasure.
2. We escape into substances: Alcohol, Weed, Sugar, Food in general, Legal and illegal drugs, Anti-depressants, and so on.
Justify how you will, but when you put any kind of substance into your body with the intention of disconnecting or momentarily forgetting your life, then you are, in truth, attempting a form of escapism.
You can't handle whatever feeling you are feeling at the moment, be it boredom from having nothing to do, loneliness from having nobody to be with, awkwardness from being in an uncomfortable social setting, depression from having experienced some sort of trauma, self-loathing that comes from an incorrect belief about one's self worth, and so on.....and so you use a substance to escape (if only for an hour or 2) from yourself.
3. We escape into the media: Celebrities (with some exceptions) ARE NOT role model.
Their lives are not to be envied or sought after. In my line of work I have had the opportunity to meet several celebrities, some more high profile than others. And while I would never say that ALL celebrities would fall into this category, I will say that the vast majority of the ones I have met, and the sweeping majority of the ones with their own reality TV shows, along with the ones that seem to garnish the most pop cultural followings, are by in large insecure, selfish, self-destructive, masters of escapism. These people typify the very thing that I feel like we ought not to be doing....and yet these are the people we pattern our lives after. From what they eat, to what they wear, and we even want to live the kind of sexually uninhibited lifestyles that they glorify.
Again, we see our own lives as so hum-drum, so boring, and unimportant, that we attempt to escape into their world and their lives. But what can we expect? I mean really....compared to the drama-filled-3-ring-circus that is their lives, how can you expect that your life isn't going to pale in the comparison?
We need not hate these people, or pass any kind of judgement on them as far as their worth as people or as children of God, but also need not attempt to pattern any aspect of our lives after them either.
4. We escape into technology: Heaven forbid we have to put ourselves out there. Heaven forbid we have to have an actual conversation with an actual person where we are actually in the same room looking at one another's actual faces and there is the possibility that actual human emotion might arise or worse, we will be forced to have to consider someone else's feelings and actually listen to what they are actually saying instead of what we are choosing to interpret from vague text messages, facebook posts, emails, tweets, chirps, buzzfeeds, memes, tumbl's, IM's, blogs and so on.
5. We escape into hate: I don't know what it is about humans, but we have some sort of superhero complex that makes us believe that there must always be a super villain to fight in order to give our lives purpose and meaning. There must always be a cause in which we are on the side of truth and right, and the other side is almost certainly holding bi-weekly meetings with Satan himself (which would include a good amount of evil finger drumming), in order to systematically tear down everything you personally hold sacred and true.
We hate the left, we hate the right, we hate the gays, we hate the straights, we hate the atheist, we hate the Christians, we hate our soldiers, we hate anyone from the middle east, far east, far out, far from what we personally believe. We hate the government, we hate the activists, we hate those who speak out and we hate those who stay silent. We hate blacks, whites, Hispanics, jews, or any other color that we believe are the cause for the collapse of our once great nation. We hate big business and we hate the men that started them. We hate the rich because they have no interest in sharing their wealth, and we hate the poor because they seem to have no interest in doing anything to contribute to society. We hate people who try to make it so their kid can say a prayer in school, and we hate the guy who wants his kid to be able to opt out. We hate people who are pro-gun and people who are anti-gun. We hate the hippies, the granola's, the artists, the activist, the pacifists, the butcher, the baker and let's not forget that pretentious candle stick maker.
But let me ask you this, when, in the entire course of human history has mere hatred alone done anything to solve any problem we have ever encountered as humans?
Open discussion. Yes.
Righteous action. Yes.
Sitting around posting poison on Facebook about a person or a situation you probably know nothing about in reality. Come on.
I'm not going to sit here and try to legitimately sell the idea that escapism in any form and for any amount of time is wrong. But there is a difference between healthy and unhealthy, and if we are being really honest with ourselves I think we would need to concede that the vast majority of what we are doing is not only unhealthy, but also counterproductive to society as a whole, and to the cultivation and betterment of ourselves as happy and progressive individuals.
It's time to stop escaping and start engaging.....if you dare.