Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Escape clause

Calling someone an escapist used to be insulting. It meant they lived in a fantasy world of their own because they couldn't cope with "real life".

Not any more. Nowadays we're all escapists. We all find "real life" so inadequate and frustrating we've got umpteen little worlds of our own that we retreat to at a moment's notice.

If we're not celeb-watchers, we're soap addicts, compulsive readers, armchair philosophers, bloggers, therapy buffs - anything supplying that little extra something that makes life a bit more complete.

Few people still pretend that the everyday routines of housework, car-washing, earning money and paying the bills are what life's all about. Self-maintenance and survival are not enough to make us happy. Of course we need more than that, we need things that express our unique tastes and interests.

Then again, who says all these personal pastimes are escapist? Feeding our minds is as much a part of real life as hoovering or chopping vegetables. We're not escaping from real life, we're adding to it.

And I'm not saying that all these everyday routines are fruitless. Of course a lot of us love cooking, raising children, or the job we do. But nobody thinks any more that that's it, that's life, and anything else is just frivolous nonsense.

More and more, we live in parallel universes. While one part of us is getting through the daily chores, another part is monitoring our other life, anticipating the next soap episode or internet search.

Only trouble is, while we're all so busy with our private indulgences, everyday life is going to pot. While we're updating our Facebook pages or doing our Tai Chi, jobs are disappearing and houses are unaffordable. Real life is screaming for help.

34 comments:

Miss Scarlet said...

Don't look at me! I'm having enough trouble maintaining my online life let alone a flipping real one...
Sx

Rummuser said...

This too shall pass Nick. It has happened before and it will happen again. I have seen such cycles any number of times in my fairly long business life and know that times will change. It looks bleak when you are in the middle of it, but in retrospect, you will laugh at the despondency.

Nick said...

Scarlet - I know, your blogs are proliferating alarmingly. There'll soon be half a dozen and you'll be carried off with multiple personality syndrome. And then there's Facebook....

Ramana - What will pass? You mean the economic turmoil? I doubt it. The gap between rich and poor is widening so fast we'll soon be back in the Victorian era.

Miss Scarlet said...

**sobs**
Sx

Nick said...

Scarlet - There, there, don't take on so. It'll all be all right, just you see. How would you like a nice Walnut Whip?

Grannymar said...

Nick, are you telling me that real life still exists? Somebody please wake me up!

PS: Do they still make Walnut Whips?

Baino said...

My fantasy life is so much better than my real one that I'm happy to be coined an 'escapist'. Real life can take a hike! (Although Saturday is for hoovering)

Nick said...

Grannymar - Goodness, have you permanently detached yourself from real life? You must give me your new address....

Yes, Walnut Whips are still going strong. Over one million walnuts are used every week in their manufacture at Halifax, West Yorkshire. So there.

Baino - Mine too. There's only so much enjoyment to be had from weeding the flowerbeds. Actually, no enjoyment at all.

Cheerful Monk said...

I've always had a rich inner life and have kept my external life as simple as possible. Have lived in apartments (this one for 37 years now) instead of owning a house. No weeds to pull here. It works for me.

e said...

I think Cheerful Monk has got it right...perhaps I should sell up and live in a yurt...

Megan said...

I like Facebook. I know I'm lucky to have it. What do you want me to do, put on a hair shirt whenever I log in?

*smiley face*

Nick said...

Monk - I agree about keeping one's external life as simple as possible. But somehow it keeps getting complicated. In theory I think renting is the best option, except that all that money just disappears into some landlord's pocket.

e - I couldn't do that, I'd miss all the home comforts like central heating and instant hot water.

Nick said...

Megan - Facebook is a great way of communicating with people, though it does tend to descend into utter trivia! No hair shirt required on my blog, you can wear your best frock and lacy knickers.

Miss Scarlet said...

Walnut Whips don't taste like they used to.
Sx

speccy said...

You're right Nick.

Somebody told us there was no such thing as society and too many believed her. Now her successor is trying to get us to mop up the mess for free in a Big Society- without any concept of what that involves.

I do lots of online protesting, lobbying etc, but that's nowhere near enough, and too eaaslily ignored.

Nick said...

Scarlet - I haven't tasted one for ages, but you could be right. Wikipedia says "The chocolate cone itself and the vanilla fondant filling have altered in recent years; the cone had a more pronounced tightly knit rough surface and the fondant was more dense."

In plain-person speak, that means they're probably using cheaper ingredients that don't taste so good.

Nick said...

Speccy - You're right. Many people have become more self-contained and oblivious to their local communities. That's not something you can reverse easily.

Wisewebwoman said...

We are all back to a world made by hand but some don't know it yet but bury themselves in the glitter and trash of the freak shows (Weiner and Oprah anyone?). Me? I plant, as that is the ONLY solution. And yeah, chickens this year too. And around me a few have added a goat or two to trim the garden.
I am stunned at how unconscious most of so-called society is.
And it will get better. But very very different.
XO
WWW

Nick said...

W3 - I don't know about a world made by hand. Technology is still all-pervasive regardless of the odd pockets of manual production. Where would the world be without computers, mobiles, washing machines, ovens? I think it's more a question of simplifying the technology so it consumes fewer resources.

Rummuser said...

And it may not be such a bad idea. We may all end up being less consumption driven, more laid back, back to old ways of living! The rich can have their life styles, and all of us can laugh at them.

Nick said...

Ramana - A novel idea, that the huge gap between rich and poor will do us all a power of good by making us reassess our consumerist lifestyles. Hmmm, maybe you're right to some extent. But what if we can't pay that crippling mortgage and get repossessed? Do we live in a tent instead?

Suburbia said...

Yes, but what to do now that we are all disenfranchised (or disinterested)?

Liz said...

Ooh, Nick, this is a post with a real kick in the tail. Just as I'm sitting there nodding in agreement you throw in the real life angst. I'm back off to the other world.

Nick said...

Suburbia - Good question. We need to improve "real life" so it becomes more satisfying. But that means taking on the mighty forces of capitalism and consumerism. A daunting task.

Liz - Sorry about that. I'm too much of a socialist to ignore the daily grind!

Eryl said...

It's a while now since those political philosophy classes I doodled in at uni, but if I remember correctly the rich need us to keep working for them, and spending the money they pay us on their goods and services. Good and services our labour creates in the first place. So, if we just all retreated further from 'real' life wouldn't the whole capitalist system come to a stop? I say we carry on with our ballet lessons and twittering and just see what happens. (Of course, it may all end up a bit Mad Max but at least that will wake us up and give us something to fight for.)

wv, by the way, is bonuses!

Nick said...

Eryl - I'm sure the rich are permanently terrified that the lower orders will stop working for them and stop buying all their products. Which explains their hysterical reactions to any mention of industrial action or simplified lifestyles.

I think the last time I got a bonus was about 20 years ago. Does anyone ever get a Christmas bonus any more?

secret agent woman said...

Hmm - I think I would make a distinction between the sort of mindless voyuerism that goes into watching soaps or giving a damn about what a celebrity is up to, and doing things that feed your mind or spirit (books, or the interaction in blogging, or understanding/changing yourself in therapy). I think the former are kinds of escapism and the latter are more ways of enriching your life. Assuming, of course, that it's all in balance with the day to day work of life.

Nick said...

Secret Agent - Maybe in theory there's a difference between escapism and enriching your life, but I hesitate to say things like soap-watching are a waste of time. If you enjoy them, and they add something to your life, why not?

Roses said...

I don't live in 'real life'. I have no intention of living in 'real life'. It's too much like bloody hard work.

Nick said...

Roses - Bloody hard work is right. Why do so many things that seem simple turn out to be so frigging complicated?

blackwatertown said...

Yes it is tiring. But worth it. Fewer nasty surprises. And it doesn't mean constant misery.
What was it Oscar Wilde said about being in the gutter but seeing the stars? Or was it seeing stars?

Nick said...

Blackwater - Perhaps it's the nasty surprises people are trying to escape from....

Rummuser said...

I have no simple answer to your question about crippling mortgage payments Nick. At the macro level, such liabilities tend to adjust to realities and come down to manageable levels if allowed to do so. We have had a merry go round life style for decades and we must allow economics to play its role by giving it time. My concern is that we are not learning from our mistakes. I included, when the going was good, I took on liabilities and struggled to get them down to manageable levels, but it took time. I have not received a bonus in sixteen years because I went off employment and went on contract employment. Since my retirement, I have adjusted to my new income generating capacity and have learnt to live within my means. I am still asset rich and cash flow poor, but I am not worried about the future because the assets are my insurance to get to a newer, if somewhat less opulent life style. It is acceptable to me. Perhaps I am being influenced by my own experience, but when I look around me, I find the same with most of the contacts that are of about my age. Inflation is a worry, but it too is manageable with care.

Nick said...

Ramana - I think a lot of people in the UK are definitely adjusting their lifestyles to the new circumstances. They're shopping less, holidaying less, paying off their debts and downsizing (if it's possible to sell their existing home). But it's a worrying time for older people whose pensions and houses are steadily reducing in value.