From a tender age, three or four, we discover that the world is more palatable when we write our own endings. It isn’t enough to be healthy, plentifully fed, entertained. Our minds flail around looking for something more interesting to do. It doesn’t surprise me that we visit this stop in the spectrum of development, but it does amaze me that we allow ourselves to become derailed. Every day we put on our costumes, assume our roles in the lives we’ll never really live. For some, that other place becomes the reality, and they visit us here only for provisions. Most all human entertainment holds an element of ‘if only’ about it.
I’ve read the average American spends five hours a day watching TV. To be fair, reading a book offers the same kind of experience, so I’m not really sure why we discredit one and exonerate the other. I suppose we are alright with the idea that a life worth living includes a fair amount of escapism, though TV, admittedly one of the best channels for this, is frowned upon. Spoon feed me scenes, lines, feelings from characters, even, but only do it through the written word. Curious. If it’s a lack of creativity we’re against why so much angst over video games? It seems in that venue you can wear the persona of another and then execute your will within the constraints of their “world.” Why doesn’t that satisfy the critics?
Ah, you say, I don’t like playing make believe. For me it’s live music or kayaking, or pottery. I say maybe. During live music I’m thinking how great it would be to live that life. I can see myself riding their tour bus or eating the catered food backstage. That’s pretend, too. We do it more than we realize, and I guess that’s the point. Humans seem incapable of accepting their circumstances and rolling along. We dream up other lives for ourselves, or even just adventures for people we respect, to while away our lives. We all agree we’d be better off doing something productive- playing with the children, making something from scratch, having a conversation, but I wonder if we really would. We are wired to need fulfillment, and seemingly, to need a suspension of reality. An African baboon needs only to spend three hours a day foraging for food. The other nine are spent participating in community activities. Human as they may seem at times, I don’t suspect they are sitting around making things up. Perhaps this is an integral part of our humanity, and we thought it was just for kids, or Halloween parties.
Sometimes I get really into books, my drug of choice in this matter. I fall so far in I can’t see what’s around me anymore. In that other life I am more alive than I am here, but the end of it is almost an unbearable loss. It’s strange to me that other people can take that same voyage, on their couches, in their living rooms. That journey was written just for me. Evidently not. Outside of this phenomenon I can see how it changes me, but I still can’t determine if it’s for better or worse.