“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” ~Abraham Lincoln
All my life, I have been drawn to activities that draw me out of reality. If only for a moment. Movies, books, video games, television and even alcohol are all gateways for our minds to free ourselves from the real world. In fact, the more advanced as a society we become, the more creative we become at inventing new and exciting ways to envelop our minds in fantasy. While many people decry this mentality as dangerous, it is unlikely this trend will go away any time in the near future. Why are we drawn to activities that pull us away from our current circumstances? Well, for starters…
Real life is limited. No matter how excellent we are at the game of life, there are just some things we will never be able to do. Escaping into fiction removes these limitations from the equation. It is no longer a matter of whether or not we have the ability to accomplish something, but whether the characters in the fictional universe we choose to delve into can. (*Spoiler Alert* They usually can). We look to the Luke Skywalkers and Buffy Summers of the world, because they have the ability to overcome every challenge that comes their way with little focus put on that which they can not accomplish. I doubt either of these individuals could perform open heart surgery, but the great thing is we’ll never have to see them try.
Real life can be boring. Let’s face it, no matter how exciting our lives are, a good portion our days are spent engaging in relatively mundane tasks. While these are most often very important, it does not change the fact that when compared to a quest to destroy the one ring, they pale in consideration. Rarely, do we view the boring sides of characters. Aragorn most likely spent many hours picking berries in the forest and gathering supplies, but at most we only have to hear about this in retrospect or glaze over a brief scene or passage relating to it. Instead, the focus is on his heroic exploits, star-crossed romance with an elf, and the intense inner struggle to accept his grandiose responsibilities. We escape to add a sense of epic experience one rarely finds in life. Even if we manage to find this magic adventure in our lives, it is important to remember every epic act comes as a result of one hundred insignificant ones.
Real life can be hard. Just getting up in the morning can be a chore for many of us. Add in the occasional minor tragedy ( e.g. car troubles), major tragedy ( e.g. the death of a loved one), and general pitfalls of our flawed existence (e.g. jealousy, greed, etc.) no wonder we try to find a more ideal reality. Sure, one can point to the many tragedies (RIP Aeris) that occur in the worlds we choose to escape to. However, in most cases we are shielded from them. Rarely, do negative occurrences not lead to some insightful lesson or grand phoenix like victory. And even if nothing is gained from them, we can always move on to another, more satisfying story or activity. Something, that many times cannot be done in real life. At least if we want to continue to be engaged members of society anyway.
In light of this, one might question whether we should bother with the real world at all. Perhaps it would be better to dedicate all of our resources to creating the ultimate escape. With advances in technology, it would not be without reason to think we could create entire virtual worlds where all of our wildest dreams could come true, thus eliminating the need for acceptance of our current place in the world. While this might be great at first, it too, would eventually become tiresome. The x-factor that makes life worth living is our ability to accept our limitations while overcoming the less exciting and difficult aspects of existence to accomplish the goals and overcome the challenges set before us. It is in this perseverance we find our true humanity. So while it may be tempting to focus one’s efforts on creating a way to escape the harsher parts of life, it is vital we continue to fight for what we believe in whatever circumstances we find ourselves.