“Reality doesn’t impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls.”
― Anaïs Nin, Incest: From a Journal of Love
“Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotion know what it means to want to escape from these.”
― T.S. Eliot
“To write poetry and to commit suicide, apparently so contradictory, had really been the same, attempts at escape.”
― John Fowles,The Magus
A “saying-No” to life? But where to escape? Is there really an escape? How does one escape from reality? And say, one has really escaped from reality, where is s/he now? Or perhaps it is a meaningless attempt; just a way to turn one´s back from what s/he experiences now.
Is there a way to get to the meaning of “escaping from reality”? It could just be an illusion so that there is actually no escape at all. Or perhaps, to make better sense of this issue, we should take it figuratively. And then, we get into the depth of human experience in this world which we call reality. Which world? Which reality? Are there varieties of reality . . .varieties of world? Perhaps we are treading now on a path that leads to nowhere. Then let´s simplify.
Reality . . .life . . . world. A common reality our human lives share in this world is out there. Objective, quantifiable, verifiable, knowable. What I perceive with my basic five senses is what the others likewise perceive with theirs. This is reality that we commonly share and for cognition´s sake, we call it “paramount reality”. From this reality, there is no way to escape and still be found alive. Death is the ultimate escape from paramount reality. What one may call “escape” from paramount reality should rather be taken figuratively. In certain cases, it is a circumstance where one “enters” into a “different reality” not identifiable with the paramount variety. At this point, however, there is already a subtle process that has occurred to get to another meaning of “reality” distinct from what we earlier identified as “paramount reality”. This “reality” is no longer out there. It is a reality within an individual person´s mind.
But doesn´t a human individual have this variety of reality even right at the dawn of her/his consciousness? Of course, in concurrence with the basic presupposition of philosophical empiricism, we become conscious of that which we experience in the world out there—the Cartesian res extensa. Against Cartesian rationalism though which presupposes the being of ideas innate in the mind—res cogitans—the empiricist assumes that all we have in the mind is the result of what we perceive—or experience—in the world out there. Yet the process doesn´t stop but goes on from perception to conception. Ideas are conceived along the way and a world not necessarily identical with what is perceived out there is created. And if we take note of the fact that there is not a single human conceiver but myriads, we therefore have millions—even billions—of worlds, realities, in the minds of all the conceivers on earth.
Of course, there are intersecting worlds for the human condition is in a lot of ways interactive and hence relational. In this sense and in many instances, these intersections even evolve to become convergences. At a certain point of time, the world out there—that which we have called “paramount reality”—has become less significant in comparison with the “inner” worlds that have been individually created and spontaneously intersecting and converging to constitute a new formation which could be called the “human world” or “human reality”. This is where we human beings are located now. This is the world—the reality—that we have created. Call it society—in fact, there are many societies—or convention. Perhaps culture—and there are likewise varieties of culture—sums up such a reality which on a larger scale constitutes a civilization.
We who are now in this reality—or more correctly, in one of these realities—didn´t get on earth to start it. At the dawning of our consciousness,we simply discovered ourselves in the warp and woof of a convention or a way of life with all its structures, demands and standards. We are caught within the pre-conditioned scope and limits—the ethos—of a “reality” where we are now. The “growth factor” automatically operates upon this realization and we find ourselves doing balancing acts to satisfy certain exigencies. At the onset, we don’t want to get into controversies and the more important option is to toe the line. We, in effect, become the so-called good citizens.
But conflicts don´t just remain at the tolerable level. They become intense. We get to the point where we can no longer hack the social pressures as the hostility between them and personal individual needs builds up. At the end of the day, we are face to face with the problem that the amount of burden has grown to be coercive and oppressive. And the six-million-dollar question is: Is it a common instance that a simple and ordinary individual human being is especially endowed with the massive strength and power to engage in a winning battle with the system of reality that constitutes what we call convention? There are stories of intrepid individuals battling it out with the system and emerging as victors. But more are the tragic protagonists who emerged as victims at the closing of a gruelling struggle.
It is the wounded spirit that moves to escape “reality”. An “escape” has to be decisively effected whether in death with its irreversible finality or in the weaving of a “new reality” as a way of survival that totally opposes and blatantly contradicts the conventional one which in the course of time has ruined an aspect of one´s personal stability, individual dignity and self-respect. With a complete sense of resignation and total disregard of harsh judgments commonly expected and actually employed by the generally self-righteous “conventional reality,” the “escapee” erects and fortifies her/his “new reality” which in the simpleminded understanding of the general public within the context of its“reality” is commonly called schizophrenia—a distorted view of “reality” or being out of touch with “reality”.
A distorted view of reality?. . . Being out of touch with reality? But, from whose perspective? An “escape from reality” is not an act to free oneself from “reality”. It is more of a radical movement from one reality to another. With the sober mind of an outside observer, nobody has the monopoly of a higher moral sense to pass judgment that one´s “escape from reality” is a retrogressive passage that makes her/him fit for the mental asylum. In the final analysis, a gifted “Ubermensch” (with apologies to Nietzsche) could pass by and render humanity the judgment that all of us are fit for the mental asylum and whether we like it or not, the truth of the matter is, we are actually living in a global cuckoo´s nest.
© Ruel F. Pepa, 25 March 2014