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Friday 9 October 2015

Across The Gulf Of Imagination (On Insecurity pt1)

This is the first part of a series of blog posts on insecurity. Each one will have a different theme.

I don't care what anyone says - everyone engages in escapism sometimes.

The definition of escapism is wide, of course. It is also sometimes seen as a bad thing, which leads people to shift the goalposts - THIS escapism they engage in is just normal and fine and dandy, whereas THAT escapism that those other people engage in is weird and strange.

Hobbies in and of themselves are escapist. Nobody wants to be working all the time, and it is actually unhealthy to do so; likewise, dealing with a perhaps stressful, difficult or awkward situation at home. Engaging in that 24/7 isn't something human beings can really do - at least, not any more, not in tandem with the prospect of surviving our thirties.

I defy you to find someone that doesn't do at least one thing, regularly, probably every day, that isn't engaging in direct problem solving, employment or provision of care (self or otherwise). If you can even name that person - do they seem strictly right, to you? Are they okay?

The thing is, with hobbies - they attract all sorts, and some people are quick to dismiss other hobbies, mostly through base insecurity. Of course football fans don't necessarily recognise a dedicated WoW raid group as being similar to them. Of course someone who reads a book every couple of days will find distance between themselves and a classically-trained pianist. They're different skills, different appeals, different draws - and some are more accepted by society at large than others.

Going out for a drink on the weekend is infinitely more acceptable to most of the population than getting together around a table and pretending to be dwarves, elves and wizards. Look at incidents of each on film and TV. Guarantee - most of the appearances of a D&D group will be used for comic purposes, whereas the bloke who doesn't go to the pub is the one worthy of scrutiny.

I've always held that the pursuit and appreciation of art is worthwhile in and of itself. To watch a movie, to read a book, to listen to music; all of these things are worth doing, because art is - for the most part - good for you. I have on occasion felt guilty for spending what actually amounts to not very much money on the apparent extravagance of seeing a movie in a cinema, and not long afterward, felt kind of stupid about it. Surely the two hours of experience I just enjoyed was worth the one hour's wage I just swapped for it? In most cases - absolutely, and yet another kind of escapism.

For just a while, we as humans - the Birmingham City fan, the reader, the golfer, the writer, the beachcomber, the Gnome rogue, the other Gnome rogue, the target shooter, the photographer, the choir lead, the local Scrabble champion, the Pokemon pro, the kart driver - need time to not be who they have to be the rest of the time. As long as what we are doing isn't harmful - to ourselves and others alike - then surely it's just as valid as the next person's escape?

On that topic - what's the shame in admitting we need it anyway? Speaking for myself, I play RPGs, video games, listen to music, watch movies, all of these things to not exist in the standard headspace my brain creates for me on a daily. I've been accused of being a weirdo for the RPGs (weird is a heavily over-used word these days) and a shut-in for the video games (actually I was a shut-in for different reasons but thank you). I daresay the people throwing those terms at me like attacks would be unsure as to how to survive a working week without several pints at the end of it.

Yet another form of escapism. A frighteningly common, effective, and socially-approved one. I am genuinely surprised that there are as few alcoholics on earth as there are - though I would wager a hog's head of mead on there being far more than are actually diagnosed. FAR more. Alcohol is pretty harmful though - in many ways, and to many people.

All we want, as a race, is to be okay with ourselves. We want a place, a space, a mindset that lets us be just...okay. Some get that on the basketball court. Some get that behind the wheel. Some get that rolling a twenty-sided die. Some get that drinking or smoking or fucking or dancing or laughing or crying or anything else that lets them take the mask off for a while, even if they have to put another one on.

...and some people feel the need to chide other people for avoiding the "real world", and in doing so, engage in their own escapism. Rendering judgment is easier than self-assessing, at least. Spit bile at those around you and then you don't have to drown in it. Escape, escape - anything to not face the cracks inside, the insecurity that all of us feel, and all of us fight from the moment we know who and what we are.

The longer I'm on this little rock spinning through a vast universe, the more I come to realise that this one thing is truly what unifies us all - and what divides us in equal measure.

Who wouldn't want to escape that particular thought process?

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