By Cameron Whitlock
Sometimes it’s just too much.
Maybe it’s the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Maybe it’s the nagging boyfriend/girlfriend or husband/wife. Maybe it’s the restless kids, the nine-to-five job or even the smug, condescending neighbors.
No matter the reason, there is no shame in wanting to escape.
In fact, we all do it. Escapism is deeply ingrained in American culture whether we choose to acknowledge it or not.
From daytime soap operas to Sunday night football, from Battlestar Galactica to Keeping Up with the Kardashians, we all occasionally live vicariously through others. Some people play video games, some participate in fantasy sports and others simply read fiction. All of the named are a flight from the typical, a voyage to our wildest dreams, a step away from the solemn news of the world and the state of an unremarkable existence.
There are countless ways to transcend the mundane; however, I’ve found the best approach for me is arguably the most imaginative.
Fantasy and science fiction have always been at the forefront of my escapist agenda.
As I child, I dueled my friends with light sabers made of sticks, I flew starships out of the Milky Way and I battled evil sorcerers and dragons alike alongside King Arthur and his knights.
And as I grew older, my appetite for adventure and my passion to dream grew exponentially. In my head, I have explored countless realms. I’ve traveled the universe through wormholes with Captain Jack O’Neil and SG-1. I’ve simply walked right in to Mordor right under the noses of some foolish orcs. I’ve taken the black and defended the realm from white walkers all the while the families of Westeros struggled for power in their futile game of thrones. I’ve even journeyed alongside multiple incarnations of the Doctor on a voyage through space and time.
Some may dream of being rich, famous or both. Some may yearn to find a perfect mate, buy a mansion or spend their lives sipping cocktails in Bermuda. While all of these dreams are farfetched, they aren’t quite unachievable.
Yet my dreams are. I am quite aware that I will never wield the Master Sword, nor will I save humanity from religious zealot genocidal aliens.
Still, my dreams and my imagination are limitless. Fantasy and science fiction inspire me to visualize something greater. They encourage me to explore the future, weigh the ideas of good and evil, and study any number of limitless possibilities the human mind can envision.
I’ve dealt with a fair share of criticism in my life. I’ve been called a nerd or geek and frequently been told that I need to live in the real world. Of course I do, in fact, live in the real world.
As a news writer, I do my best to stay informed of the many atrocities that plague our reality. I listen to elephants and donkeys argue over birth control, guns and immigrants. I also keep a nervous eye on the civil war in Syria. I even try and appreciate the beautiful things in life that are real, such as a night out with friends, a lovely full moon and a fresh cup of coffee. Besides, many of those who do criticize my form of escapism are likely not acknowledging their own; while gossiping about Kanye’s new baby, watching some 16-year-old mom destroy her life or debating who will be the next American Idol.
While there is nothing wrong in indulging in these “fantasies,” why not take it a step farther? Why not try to experience that lonely sense of wonder you get when you look up at the stars? Or look for that sense of adventure and awe you once had when you traveled to a mysterious new place as a child?
George R.R. Martin, author of the fantasy series “A Song of Ice and Fire,” put it best when he said, “Fantasy is silver and scarlet, indigo and azure, obsidian veined with gold and lapis lazuli. Reality is plywood and plastic, done up in mud brown and olive drab. Fantasy tastes of habaneros and honey, cinnamon and cloves, rare red meat and wines as sweet as summer. Reality is beans and tofu, and ashes at the end. Reality is the strip malls of Burbank, the smokestacks of Cleveland, a parking garage in Newark. Fantasy is the towers of Minas Tirith, the ancient stones of Gormenghast, the halls of Camelot. Fantasy flies on the wings of Icarus, reality on Southwest Airlines. Why do our dreams become so much smaller when they finally come true? ...They can keep their heaven. When I die, I’d sooner go to middle Earth.”
Cameron Whitlock is a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers. He lives in Banks County.