Escapism: How do we avoid this?

[cite] Allandnone:[/cite]Wow, this is getting more interesting as we discuss it.
Yes! Nothing is more interesting to me than this 'illusion'. But, this 'illusion' is still pretty fascinating anyway... :lol: Here's some more thoughts on it.

Television is another metaphor, or perhaps just an example, of our 'time illusion'. Our memories create our illusion of time. Without memory there is no time. And what is memory? Simply an electro chemical state. And what is that? Well, we could probe a little deeper, but in the end we would just end up at the quantum mystery, or the Three Musketeers – kind of a quantum equivalent... the 'All for one and one for all' of non-locality. But I digress.

Pictures and clocks reenforce the illusion of time. Pictures evoke memory, clocks 'organize' memory. Science 'nails' time down by measuring space and time with clocks and rulers. What science is really doing though is measuring mass and energy in the 'nothingness of space and time'. These [chref=14]are confused and looked upon as One[/chref], as the good book puts it.

Our sense of time is really our emotional experience. For example, consider how easily we become 'transported' by stories, movies, plays, music, conversation. That sense of 'transported' gives us our sense of time - the illusion. When, in [chref=16]stillness and emptiness[/chref], you settle down into the vanishing present, there is no place or time to be 'transported' to. [chref=2]Nothing and Something[/chref] exist in what has been referred to lately in quantum mechanics circles as a 'non localized reality'. (I'm just guessing about that. I know so little about what goes on in social circles.)

Earthquakes (and other 'shocking' things) play with our sense of time. I was sitting waiting in the car at dusk while the family went into the store. As the sun set over the old jail building, I dropped the 'time illusion' and opened 'my eye' to real time - eternal in the moment time - for a moment. Was that '1989' earthquake just yesterday... or 17 years ago... or 17 thousand years ago... or 17 trillion years ago? A trillion years? A trillion years and a moment share a delicious [chref=56]mysterious sameness[/chref]. All we need do is suspend our illusionary belief in time to feel it. We live our lives in a misconception of time or perhaps I should say a pre-conception of time. It's crazy! Now is the time to start popping pre-conception.


  • edited December 1969
    Is there any way to avoid escapism? I looked up the personal life of Alan Watts, a contemporary philosopher that I think is brilliant, entertaining, and wonderfully insightful. Toward the end of his life, I found that he went through serious alcohol addiction, was bound down by social and economical responsibilities, and was burnt out after working all the time and going through three marriages. Is there a way to avoid escapism, the type that can deteriote the body, mind, and soul?
  • edited December 1969
    Hello Curious... plonk yourself down on a cushion. tea?

    indeed, escapism is almost inescapable innit tho.
    thats what "I" , the ego consciousness does for a 'living' ;-)

    Please dont think im speaking cos i think i know, its just interesting to wonder about the mystery. (plus i finally today got a home computer so i dont have to sneek a peek at this site at work)

    All i have to say in answer to your question is...
    If there was a way that he could have ‘chosen’ to avoid escapism... he would have done it.
    Can we? ... if we could, we would.

    I almost want to ask myself, 'is there a way we can accept escapism' which is a biological hoodwink, i.e. instinct.
    Thats how our brains show us reality, as a ‘remember when…’ (ie preconceptions) thus a ‘wouldn’t it be better if…’ (ie free will to control/conquer nature as something we are separate from)
    Is not our 'escapism' purely a symptom of our biological instinct that the grass is always greener over there? that more is better?

    We feel hungry so that we will get UP and act.. go and get food... or we will die. So it seems to make sence to us that more is better, just as it does for the alcoholic.
    Is that not so of all our actions? ((Is it not still true of our thoughts?))
    Needs call us into action toward, to get, yum yum i like it,
    and fears shock us into action to run, repel or defend.
    So is not escapism just as natural as hunger and needing the bathroom?

    Check out Carls work on free will on the home page.
    Blow your mind it will... but after all, much talk leads [chref=5]inevitably to silence[/chref],,,
    i reckon!
  • edited December 1969
    Thanks for replying to my question, I like that answer, I really like the thought into it, the natural flow of ideas and connections.

    I will be honest with you, I am terrible at deep thought. I feel that my awakening has only started about a year ago after I saw the need to look at the world in a different light (I hit a point where nothing really made sense). I think one of the most liberating feelings is the feeling of failure of an expected outcome after expected success in everything, sometimes this unexpected hit can just "set you free."

    Escapism is something that seems to be quite obvious everywhere I go. When I was in college, I saw others (including myself) start with many things: alcohol, marijuana, drugs, sex, dating relationships (regardless of the quality of them), aggression, sports, movies, television, internet, books, etc. I feel that escapism is sometimes a necessary phenomena that allows the individual the immediate avenue of survival, some forms of it can actually start out small and end of corrupting the body, mind, and soul.

    The only thing that I have found (sorry, in my opinion) to avoid escapism is friendship. It is a gift and a wonder, it is one thing that I could not live without. I wish that less people would be lonely and that more would come to understand that friendship is precious and divine, something that I couldn't take for granted.
  • edited December 1969
    Thanks for the topic, Curious.

    It got me thinking about escapism and how so many of the things we do are some form of it. Shopping, watching television, reading a book, all kinds of recreational activities, conversation, message-boarding, anything to distract ourselves and prevent us from experiencing our minds in the moment.

    Perhaps the only thing I do that isn't escapism is meditating. No distractions; only what is. Sometimes, I am able to carry this awareness to activity. I find the more repetitive and boring the activity, the easier it is to be mindful during it. I'm very often mindfully cleaning the house or exercising at the gym.

    Perhaps a good way to add fullness to life is to experience it instead of setting ourselves up to be so busy that we miss it.
  • edited March 2007
    Welcome Curious.

    Given one word to describe myself, it would be curious. Perhaps that is an essential part of being a Taoist. There sure isn't much to 'hang on to', otherwise, eh? Anyway, curiosity is such an adventure!
    [cite] Curious:[/cite]... Alan Watts,... brilliant, entertaining... serious alcohol addiction...burnt out

    Is there a way to avoid escapism...

    Escapism? I'm first drawn back to Buddha's First Truth on suffering. Isn't suffering what we are seeking to escape? Fundamentally, if we feel [chref=46]content[/chref] 'here', we won't want to go 'there'. On the other hand, when we're discontent, we are driven in to what ever promises to deliver the happiness i.e.,[chref=33]contentment[/chref], we crave. There in lies the source of escapism.

    Initially sensual pleasures hold out that promise. For example, when we're hungry, we feel less content. So we seek out food -- the tastier the better – and when we are full, we feel content again. This is true for all [chref=42]the myriad creatures[/chref]. Civilization disrupts that simple biological process for humans, and even other domesticated animals as well. So, for example, if someone feels discontent socially (lonely perhaps) they may try to resolve that discontentment through eating, become obese and feel even more socially 'outside'. Of course, instead of over eating, one may drink, work, sleep, fight, study, travel,... you name it. What ever the 'promise', it is something always external, and so something we 'escape' into in the hopes of eliminating our suffering.

    Clearly, neither this disruption of natural process or the means for escapism would be possible without civilization (i.e., civilization meaning the tools, comforts and security not found in the wild). So shall we ban civilization or perhaps just ban the 'bad' aspects of civilization? Even if we could (i.e. free will), it won't work for the [chref=2]'good and 'bad'[/chref] are co-producing sides of the same coin. Moreover, feel-good or firebrand legislation banning this or promoting that only makes matters worse. Geez, is this situation completely hopeless, or what? :cry:

    Humanity can regain balance only when we, as individuals, are ready to give up some of the 'good' side of civilization we love so much. The only way we will do that is when we, as individuals, realize that [chref=41]the way that leads forward seems to lead backward[/chref]. So, I wouldn't hold my breath. Although, I think we'll see that as the population ages and shrinks over the coming millennia [chref=40]turning back[/chref] will become more possible. (See There may be a silver lining at the conclusion of Ethics: Do They Work Anymore?.)

    Each of us continues with our own ways to escape until we realize – viscerally realize – that there is no escape. In this way we behave like rats. Research has shown that rats will do anything to escape. Only when they sense there is absolutely no hope of escape do they [chref=37]remain still[/chref] and surrender. That's us, we [chref=53]prefer by-paths[/chref]. We go through life trying all the angles, until every pore of our body knows that there is no escape. Only then can we begin to [chref=16]do our utmost to attain emptiness[/chref].

    I suppose Watts intellectually understood that [chref=40]turning back[/chref] was the [chref=21]the way and the way only[/chref]. From the symptoms you describe, however, I'd guess he never viscerally realized escape was futile. In a way, perhaps he emotionally felt Zen was an escape as well. In fact, some of the more 'clever' Zen stuff smacks of escapism to me. Simply put, knowing something intellectually is not the same as 'being the knowing'. We can only 'be the knowing' when we come to our dead end. Watts never did, until he died of course.

    It is useful to recognize that he had no choice (free will) in the matter. None of us do. But for the grace of [chref=4]the forefather of God[/chref] (or genetics and circumstances) go each of us. Chapter 73 puts in more quaintly: [chref=73]Heaven hates what it hates, Who knows the reason why?[/chref] In the end though, this applies to all of us. [chref=58]Good fortune[/chref] cuts both ways; advantage and disadvantage come as a package deal.

    Only when we realize there is no escape do we begin [chref=16]returning to our destiny[/chref]. Not that we could do otherwise. In short: If we don't realize, we can't do. If we realize, we can't not do. It is out of our hands, out of our responsibility. Only when we realize? Not intellectual realization mind you, though that can't hurt. Rather, realizing at the deepest emotional level that there is no escape. Realization is a 'burn your hands' kind of knowing. Once you burn your hands deeply, you know! No words, no council, can substitute for that direct experience.

    However, like burning our hands, it comes down to whether or not we learn the lesson of our experience. Until we do, we will put our hands in the fire again and again. Why don't we learn the first time? We continue to instinctively feel we can escape, get in free, the 'short cut' works. So while we have the opportunity to learn from our mistakes, we never really do until we 'become the knowing' in a kind of living breathing realization. When, in each moment, we are what we know, we have learned our lesson to [chref=45]great perfection[/chref],... more or less :wink: .

    My word, so many words. Sorry :oops:,... still, escapism is a big subject. And besides, writing all that gives me a nice escape as well,... or does it? And is there any difference really, or does it all come back to [chref=56]mysterious sameness[/chref]? :lol:
  • edited December 1969
    Hi Curious and everyone. I'm from UK, new to the site and late to the subject.

    Seem's Curious is on the right track in saying that friendship is one of the keys to overcoming escapism. Perhaps we should extend that to relationships in general, which is what everything is really about. Escapism is simply focusing on the needs of the ego and, frankly, the kind of conversations that are introverted and focused on 'me'. The key thing about the Tao and about nature is that the Tao is not concerned with iteself:

    "Heaven lasts long, and Earth abides.
    What is the secret of their durability?
    Is it not because they do not live for themselves
    That they last so long?"
    (John CH Wu's version of Chapter 7)

    Once we begin to focus on our needs, our circumstances, our desires, the needs of others go out of focus. Escapism can be 'religious' too but maybe the late Alan Watts (for whom I have enormous respect), was suffering from a compulsion disorder which needed medical as well as spiritual attention.

    Ultimate living is living for others, friends, loved ones, unloved ones too. It's identifying totally with the rest of creation, realising that it is part of me and I am part of it. My suggestion to avoid escapism? Cultivate stillness and serve others.

    One last thing. Where is everyone on this forum?

    (Oh and just in case you wondered, Weobley is pronounced Webbley - it's where I live and you can view it at
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