We Are All Escape Artists

August 30, 2009

Untitled (1999)

At times I need to escape,
drift formlessly through my window
and fly into ethereal space.

Sitting, I see myself
floating on wind currents
riding the updrafts and gusts
of primal life. Unfettered.

Freedom.

High above society’s claims,
I soar.
No confines. No restrictions.
In a state of natural bliss,
I reside.

Graceful. Effortless.
Sublime.

I wrote this poem ten years ago and while it is no Pulitzer candidate, it fully sums up what I was feeling at that point in my life. I was working in a low-level corporate job where higher-ups got all the credit and the money. I was twenty-nine years old and recently got pass-rider benefit from my Flight Attendant brother, which meant I could fly almost free anywhere I wanted to go. I was so out of there. I gave my notice and off I went for a surf trip to Panama. Later came Mexico, Amsterdam, etc. This was my first big escape, not the trip to Panama, but the escape from the cogs of the corporate machine and I have never looked back. So, naturally, when I received the topic for August this poem sprang to mind.

This is just one example of escape, though and the concept of escape means many things to different people including what most people here in the U.S. probably think of when they mention an escape: the weekend escape or mini-vacation which I will call an escape from place. Living in New England there are no end to the possibilities for the weekend escape. One can take the ferry over to Nantucket or the Vineyard and socialize with the socialites or drive west, down the Pike to hit up Lenox and Stockbridge and catch some music at Tanglewood. Perhaps hike Greylock or visit MassMOCA for some culture. For an escape from place many, New Englanders will cruise over to Bermuda; but, my personal favorite is a short drive to Quebec City where I can practice French and feel like I’ve gone to Europe in just a weekend.

The aforementioned are the bigger, sometimes life-altering, types of escape, but there are other more prosaic types of escape that most of us commit on a daily basis. The Physical/Spiritual escape is one where we escape the mundane, banality of daily life through a physical exertion. Through that exertion we attain a small spiritual cleansing that washes away the grime of life and allows us to make it through and maybe enjoy another day. When I work out I am not just getting physically fit but psychologically fit as well, blowing the days’ stresses out of the system. My favorite physical escapes are surfing and martial arts, with sailing coming in at a close third. We all have our own release valves and these are vital for our survival as we grow families, raise kids and get more responsibilities.

A common form of escape that I have noticed lately is the escape into cyber-space, the unreality that is becoming the reality for so many. I am not a fan of technology, but I have even caught myself getting sucked in to Facebook and wasting many hours online reading blogs such as this one. While the new media is a valuable tool in the modern world, it is no substitute for real, human interaction or the printed media. To anyone who finds this as their primary means of escape, I would recommend reading Technopoly by Neil Postman, which points out how this primrose path leads to nowhere good.

When I mentioned to my wife that the theme for this month was escape she laughed and said, “Is that like when you’re talking and I don’t hear you because I’m escaping your chatter in my mind?” I have to admit that she is right; we all do it, tune out our significant other and all we get is white noise, that delightful static that plays in our heads when we don’t really give a shit what someone else is saying. I guess this is really the most common form of escape, a mental escape, and probably the most important for our ability to remain independent entities amidst the turmoil of the nuclear family and society at large.

The irony of my corporate escape is that I am still trying to escape today, trying to escape being broke, still looking for that one true thing that I will love doing for the rest of my life. To quote Ayn Rand, “Everyman builds his world in his own image. He has the power to choose but no power to escape the necessity of choice.” For anyone who wants to find happiness through escape that is more than fleeting listen to Dennis Leary’s bit on Happiness in “No Cure for Cancer” because he got it right: “Happiness comes in small doses.” For some it’s coffee and a cigarette and for others it’s sailing or reading . But we all need a little happiness, and a little escape, in our lives.

One Response to “We Are All Escape Artists”

  1. Len Pal says:

    Dave, nice work. You communicated the different ways everyone escapes (or tries to escape) on a regular basis without even realizing that’s what they’re doing. I’ve spent time as a cog in the corporate machine and spent time in smaller professional ventures as well, and had reasons to wish to escape from each frequently. (One could argue that I’m a corporate cog now, although for the moment I don’t feel like just a small part of a bigger machine.)
    I enjoyed the way you also described not just what we’re trying to escape (whether consciously or not) but also the little escapes we might not even realize we’re taking, whether it might be that cigarette and coffee, your wife’s brief mental escapes from your chatter, a day kayaking, or a night jamming out some blues. I’m grateful that there are little escapes I can take during the times I don’t have the means or opportunity for bigger ones.
    Cheers,
    — Len Pal

Leave a Reply

About this author