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Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just switch off your thoughts? The way one turns a tap on or off, or shuts their eyes against something they don’t wish to see. Imagine if it were possible to focus only on one thing for a long time. There would obviously be downsides to this, which is probably why we can’t do it. We can’t stop thinking completely but we can completely stop thinking about one thing or other if we find our escape.
For some people, it is reading, others it is writing. Some people listen to loud music and sing at the tops of their voices to get over a particular memory. Lots of people lose themselves in a drawing or sculpture. Some people may find it in shopping for new expensive clothes and shoes. Nowadays it’s easy to forget you exist for hours at a time watching film after film after film; always a door from our own harsh reality to a better place. Maybe this is why there are bad people; they can’t find their escape and so become as cold as the world they find themselves trapped in, committing deeds they feel fit in with death, disease, loss, spite and anger. For now the real world may not make sense, but I believe one day it will. One day we will know the reason why there is so much pain and anguish and suffering, but for now we must grin and bear it and when it seems that a smile will no longer force itself upon our lips and the burden is too great to bear, we escape.
I feel compelled to point out here that there is and should be a story for each escape. The story behind the painting is a common phrase and we seem to be seeking a deeper interpretation for everything; the artist didn’t choose that pose because it looked most natural, but because it shows their infidelity. And the poet didn’t choose that word because they felt it fit just right into that line but because that word has a hundred other meanings that linguists could interpret until the end of time. I rather think that this takes all the fun out of things. It certainly makes it harder to simply enjoy the story one is studying in class. But then again, maybe this technique is someone else’s escape. Perhaps they enjoy losing themselves in imagining all the possible reasons why and how and decided that us mere pupils should give it a go too. For those who choose to lose themselves in the written word – some one else’s or their own works – the story is most apparent; that is the point of literature, is it not? Fact or fiction each will dictate a certain timeline with events of significance picked out for the reader – or writer – to feast upon. And any musician or tuned ear will be able to tell you exactly what a song is saying, lyrics or not. How the high chirrupy parts of a symphony acknowledge new life whilst the harsh drum beats and quickening melodies indicate danger and suspense. Isn’t it fascinating that something so corporeal can make our hearts beat faster? Unite us with new friends of adjectives and verbs and make us feel exactly how we know that 2D person behind the glass is feeling. And do not even get me started on how each work of art must have some sort of story; a beginning of the creation – the blank paper; a middle where the entire work is beginning to take shape and an end when the artist, like so many authors and film directors before them must say goodbye to their work, their habit that became part of their life for a little while. Then, when another tragedy strikes, be it at home, work, school, college or free time, we can retreat into our escape and a story may be continued; greeted like an old friend, comfortable like slipping into a recurring dream, a really good dream. And for such a little while the world may be okay again. The sun may be shining outside, just like it is in Claude Monet’s The Poppy Field. And there is always the constant reassuring reminder that good will always overcome evil, whether in the form of your uptight boss or Captain Hook.
So why don’t we spend our time completely indulged in our escape? I suppose the answer is in the question; if we spent all our time there, it would hardly be an escape. I suppose too that we can relate the point right at the start where – if we did stop thinking about everything for prolonged amounts of time – there could be dangerous consequences; imagine if we drove along with our noses stuck in a book. Or stood all day on a street corner trying to get that light just right. Or – heaven forbid – spent all day stuck in front of the telly. All of these are good reasons, but above all, nothing will beat the rollercoaster that is life. As a wise gargoyle once shared with a misshapen protagonist –
“Life is not a spectator’s sport; if watching’s all you’re going to do, you’re going to watch your life go by without you.” – Laverne, Walt Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
There is nothing in the entire world that could ever substitute real sunshine lighting up your face and warming you right through to the cockles of your heart. And all the proposals in all the Jane Austen books could never substitute the real thing. No amount of adjectives can make you feel the way ice cream exactly tastes. Of course, they may inform you the flavour is vanilla or chocolate or strawberry or cookies and cream, but what is vanilla? Or strawberry? You can’t describe it though menus may try. You simply have to write the flavour and hope the audience understands. And no one, even the most talented writer, has the skill to describe what notes Florence and the Machine uses for Dog Days Are Over could they? Imagine; ‘it starts with a middley note – ‘hap’ then goes up a tone or so – ‘pi’ then ‘ness’ is the same note as ‘hap’ after ‘pi’… ‘ it’s just not having the same effect, is it? Not as going home, sticking it on your ipod speakers at full volume and singing it at the top of your lungs might get rid of the memory that the new nurse didn’t notice you’d bought new high heels so you’d be that little bit taller when you stood next to him. Nothing can substitute the real emotions you get when you find out your mom is going to have another baby or that your dad finally booked the trip to Rome that he’d been promising for ages. Nothing beats the real life smell of good cooking – chocolate chip cookies and fresh bread I’m talking. The smell of the sea, the sounds of a harp, the beauty of a dew-covered rose.
I’m sure you may have guessed by now that I am escaping. I have left the real world behind and filled it with a utopian shadow; picked out all the bad parts – the choking smell of pollution at the centre of the city, the sound of nails scraping down a board or paper, the sight of that hideous monstrosity they dare call the modern library. Perhaps it isn’t good to imagine things this way. It may be considered cowardice; pretending everything will be okay; hiding for as long as possible from a problem, praying it will leave of its own accord. I said that nothing could supersede these gems of humanity, the diadems of nature; the smell of cookies and roses and so on. Indeed I stand strongly by this belief. But when things get bad, when we are presented with the lumps of coal humanity and nature have to offer, is it really so bad to choose the painkiller over the nasty cure? And what if there is no cure, nasty or otherwise? Is the painkiller really so bad then? To lose yourself in another, better world. Just for a time, just to lessen the pain, make it bearable, make life worth living a little while longer, until the world’s greatest physician has tended to your gaping wound.
I think so. But I suppose we must all also consider that coal, with a little work, can also become a diamond. Or what worth coal to a warm man is compared to that of a cold man. Perhaps not all of our problems are as hopeless as they seem; opportunities present themselves in all sorts of shapes and sizes. And surely someone somewhere is worse off than you. Perhaps your neighbours envy your issues as much as you’d rather have theirs? Who knows? I certainly don’t. But that hardly matters; I’m off to somewhere in Idris with Jace (those who escape through the written word, or even lately, the moving picture, may know what I’m referring to here.) He’s just found out where Sebastian is and, though I’ve read the book before, I can’t wait to see what happens. I suppose I’ll see you round. Happy escaping!
write by Darryl