Our everyday existence is filled with so much stress that it often becomes impossible to appreciate the small things around us – no matter how beautiful. In our desire to excel and to be successful, we tend to forget that it is the journey that matters most. From the time we wake up till we fall asleep at night, we are hounded by stress and tension that they become part of our daily life. It is at the height of these stressful moments that we dream to escape the realities we are facing. How we wish to be so far, far away from our daily grind.
At points when everything exhaust us that even a glance outside our often window becomes too much of an effort, I feel the need to fly away to an isolated place where all that I need to do is breath and appreciate the beauty of nature. Indeed, in our world where even the mundane is already an inevitable task, leisure time becomes too much expensive. As the world goes even more fast-paced, people tend to compete forever. It does not matter if we forget the more important aspects of life like nurturing our feelings towards our loved ones, or taking notice of the beautiful rose blooms that have always been around in our gardens.
In many parts of the world today, it is already normal to exist in a dog-eats-dog world where the dogma is the survival of the fittest. Sometimes, there is no other choice for us because it is the only way we can earn enough money to be able to eat three times a day. In fact, Arlie Russell Hochschild, in his book “The commercialization of intimate life: Notes from home and work”, noted that in so many parts of the world, parents leave their children behind to earn their keep in another country.
I have read somewhere that Filipino mothers who would have worked in their country opt to be domestic helpers abroad in order to give their children a decent future. How sad it can be for a mother to leave her own child behind, in order to take care of a stranger’s child? Perhaps there can never be anything more painful than that. Then again, because of economic hardships, these mothers are forced by circumstances to do what they need to do. In situations like this, everybody suffers. The own child of the domestic helper grow up motherless – at least physically – and the mother becomes a stranger to her own family.
In any angle, this creates stress on both sides. However, I particularly think that the tip of the scale is on the mother who works abroad, specifically because she flies to an unknown territory, knowing that she has no friends there. The adjustment she often makes is so unbelievable that many of those who suffer the same fate as hers often go crazy. Indeed, many of these overseas Filipino workers go mad with longing for their family. Even worse, some of them are treated harshly by their employers, yet they do not complain for fear of being deported to the Philippines penniless.
How about those internet ads that Hochschild mentioned? Sex trafficking is also prevalent especially in developing countries whose jobless citizen resort to the internet to earn big bucks. When we open pornographic websites, it would be easy to take pity on young men and women who sell their body for some money, when they could have been in school studying. Of course, their faces would be plastered with smiles because that was what was expected of them. In reality, however, their heart could be bleeding. Again, many of these people who offer sex for money either in actuality or internet are into drugs.
Drugs help people escape from the quagmire of reality that they are in. It would be easy to think that everything is okay even if it is not when drugs blur our mind. It is not surprising therefore is people who are under stress are into different kinds of drugs. This consequently helps them face reality without hurting too much. Drugs serve as a cushion to their fall. In “Escapism” which was written by Yi-Fu Tuan, the author wrote that people do yearn to appreciate the world they live in, but there are circumstances that prevent them from doing so. “Certain chemicals help.
Some American Indians, for example, eat the root of peyote in their sacred rites. The rites themselves heighten awareness, and the active element in peyote, mescaline, heightens it further. In modern secular times, more than ever people depend on chemical stimulants to dispel the head cold of daily life, even if it is just the caffeine in the morning cup of coffee (Tuan, p. 193). ” For, indeed, many of us already need the aid and help of certain chemicals to ‘release’ happy thoughts. We have already been exposed to so much hardships and reality that bites that it is already difficult for us to sit back and relax the natural way.
Hence, there is a need for escapism. According to Tuan, escapism is human and inescapable. He only argued that this is healthy for as long as the person who longs for it has his feet still planted firmly on the ground. Escapism becomes dangerous only when it becomes a permanent state with the person involved not knowing the delineation between fantasy and reality anymore. For Richard Florida who wrote “The Rise of The Creative Class: And How Its Transforming Work, Leisure, Community, and Everyday Life”, creativity has emerged as the single most important source of economic growth.
According to him, the Creative Class behind this growth values individuality, meritocracy and diversity. He argued that creative communities take root and thrive when three things are present, namely: technology, talent and tolerance. He even quoted Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Fogel when the latter said that “Today, people are increasingly concerned with what life is all about. That was not true for the ordinary individual in 1885 when nearly the whole day was devoted to earning the food, clothing, and shelter needed to sustain life (Florida, p. 82. )” However, Florida forgot to look beyond the comfort of American society.
He forgot about the starving people in developing countries whose main goal in life is just to earn enough money to tide a day over. When Florida argued that today, the content of the job and nature of work environment matter more than compensation, he is forgetting the hopeless people on the other side of the economic fence. People in America may no longer work for monetary compensation alone, but there are still millions of people out there who do not care about Florida’s deconstruction of a “creative class” because they are busy working a living just so their children will be able to eat three times day.
When Florida writes, “The playing field is horizontal and people are always on the roll (Florida, p. 104)”, he is not thinking of the Filipino domestic helper or the Latin American young girl who has no choice but sell her body in exchange for food on the table. In other words, for me, Florida’s treatise is a form of escapism in itself as it does not really deal with the daily grind of life as it should be seen. The over-all mood of the book seems surreal as he talks about creativity in synchronicity with economic and social dimensions of life.
Sure, some American people may have reach that point where money no longer matters to them, and that they already yearn for a more laid-back life. However, this is only so because they can already afford a more laid-back life. There are still those who cannot have the same dream. And as Hochschild states, most people still do juggle the conflicting demands of love and work daily. In fact, his perspective shows how our capitalistic society has shaped our views and takes on things. Compared there to Florida’s thesis, I am more inclined to argue on the side of Hochschild.
In fact, Hochschild and Tuan seem to be more in touched with reality than Florida. Tuan even explained that “the temptation of ‘cleansed vision’ is to make idols of objects that have suddenly taken on import, or to value the ecstatic experience itself to the exclusion of everything else; if one doesn’t worship, one wants to merge. ” This is where escapism emerges. Personally, if I long to escape from reality, the best place to go is an isolated beach where the only thing I am required to do is sit, swim and eat.
It would be recharging time for me when I would channel my energy only to myself. Indeed, it would be pretty hard to forget the problems back home but it wouldn’t hurt to try. This way, I will have the needed break without withdrawing too much from reality. In other words, going on a vacation will definitely help me escape from my daily grind but it will also keep me grounded because after a certain period I will have no choice but to go back to reality. Perhaps, life is indeed a cornucopia of various ups and downs that make it really a rollercoaster ride.
It is only in the degree of stress that people all over the world differ. Yet, everyone feels the need to escape from reality once in a while. This is what life is all about, after all. One works hard, in order to play hard. It is still best to make the most of one’s life without ruining it with too much pressure. It would be sad to have billions in the bank, but not having the time and energy to enjoy it. At the end of the day, just day-dreaming of a wonderful place where relaxation is the main source of activity is a form of escapism in itself.
Whether one does this inside his own cubicle in the office or during one’s off-day is no longer as important as the deed itself. One only needs to be realistic enough to fly back to the ground for some reality check. Then again, some people are indeed more fortunate then others because those who really are in dire need for escapism often achieve this without knowing how to go back to reality again. In most cases, they become trapped in this make-believe world that they create, forcing the world to treat them cruelly as crazy people.