Friday, November 28, 2008

Escaping to Reality

Lack of sleep bring many thoughts. There are the ones about my lunch for work. The ideas on a new car that will be purchased in many years. Thoughts on religion, politics and my wife's amazing cooking last night. One thought has held in my mind this night: escapism.

Since the turn into 20th century to the turn into the 21st, entertainment has gone from stage shows and big bands to video games, movies worth more than some small nations, reality TV, games on your phone and so on. From radio serials and variety shows to Battlestar Galactica and Hogan Knows Best. From playing outside in the fields and the alleys to fighting aliens or rolling around a big ball for a flamboyant extra-terrestrial king. Things have change a lot since the first days of the modern age. Entertainment escapism has become a worldwide, multi-billion (maybe trillion) dollar industry that has pushed further into introversion than ever before.

I'm a child of this age of online communities, adventures in your living room and acceptable alter-egos. I was born during the age of Atari and Commodore 64 and grew up during the exponential explosion of the DVD and the PlayStation-style consoles. I'm sad to say I used to cope with the troubles in my life by rushing to the PC and firing up a universe I could hide in (Privateer and Morrowind being my favorites). I had shelves of computer games and boxes of console games, not to mention the stack of DVDs I'd throw on at night to aid in my sleep. A habit found to actually hinder my sleep soon after moving away and not having a TV. Movies and games are wonderful escapes into places we can always visit, but never truly affect. Escaping to these worlds is a pleasurable limbo in which nothing is solved, but for a while you feel away from reality. Escaping is a drug in our times, just as bad as the ones people now gorge on to function in an ever increasing disconnected reality.

Hopefully, I got across in Utahn #4 my increasing disdain for cities: their collective mindsets and their suppression of the spiritual need to explore. That disdain plays into what's been rolling around in my head. I've held the notion that my slow pushing away of cities and of so-called "cultured" civilization was escapism. That it was my way of dealing with the reality of the spread of urban areas and that a majority of people live within city limits (80% of Utah's population lives in one long urbanized front). Alas, I'm increasingly coming to the solid opinion that what I feel is not escapism at all, but in fact a need to put my soul back into some form of reality outside of the modern human construct. For years, I have lived on television, computers, video games and countless other man-made gadgets to tie up my brain in a false world. Hell, books used to be enough escape for people before the invention of TV and Mario Bros. Now, with the growth of disconnected interconnectivity, I'd hope many of us would start searching for our own "escape" into the world of dirt, hard work, clean air and hands-on creation.

This isn't a rejection of technology all together. I am not a Luddite or a Zerzan disciple, though I used to be years ago and some of it has stuck with me (specifically the ideas of disconnection). Technology has done us much good, but as Socrates and Plato preached moderation, and we should as well. There is only so much technology can do for a person before he/she is hollowed out into the mindless consumer/watcher that the left warns us about, but it is not the fault of the company that provides us with such amazing gadgets or programs or games. It is the individual who must tear itself away from the screen and open the door to the outside. The company nor the government is the keeper of your natural soul. It is only you that can take a hike instead of watch another crap reality show on some fifth-rate celebrity family.

Hikers in the Maze in Utah's Canyonlands National Park.
The Maze is only accessible by a day long hike.

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