On that point, I cannot help thinking of a surveyor from my town who was married to a charming wife and had a daughter. He had a job at a state firm that did road maintenance. He was an indefatigable worker. His office was by the side of the Palermo-Catania freeway, and many times when I went to Catania on Sunday I spotted his car in the parking lot near his office. Obviously, his work was everything he had in his life, as he worked continuously, but it was probably just an escape from something he considered unbearable. Apparently, his family appeared to be close-knit in public, while in the privacy of their home things were quite different.
If you run away from situations that cause you stress, anxiety, or uneasiness, you have the illusion of ridding yourself of unbearable problems, but that is a false impression. You cannot resolve your troubles by escaping. You should cope with your issues and overcome them.
Later, the tireless surveyor was found dead in his chair with his head laid on the desk in his office, a revolver still gripped in his hand. That was evidence that his overzealousness was just an escape from his family problems.
I have seen many people who read books continuously. At first glance they look very learned, but if you observe them carefully, you’ll see that their so-called love for books is just an escape from reality. In other words, any action that is repeated too often and which goes on without interruption for long periods of time is assured to be pathological.
Even going to Mass may be an escape. I once noticed a person that attended a 6 p.m. Mass and then headed for a 7 o’clock Mass in a different church. He had nothing to do, so he moved from one church to another just to kill time.
A dear friend of mine who was a Protestant pastor once confessed to me that he had had many arguments with members of his congregation and was on the verge of quitting his office, but he didn’t because he didn’t know what he would do without his church.
There was a shop seller who had a notions store, and even though he was too old to run his business and no customers bought anything from him, he continued to keep open his shop just to have a way to spend his time. Otherwise, he had no idea what he would do.
A trader of building materials used to struggle daily to manage his firm. He was always overwhelmed with debts, and had a lot of trouble honoring his bills of exchange. He finally went bankrupt and all his worries vanished. One day I stumbled across him. I didn’t know he had quit his job, but he looked much too flabby; moreover, he was pale.
“How is business?” I asked.
“I don’t work anymore!” he answered with a disconsolate air.
“You should be more relaxed now without anything to do. You have no worries!”
“No, it is not quite that easy. When I worked, I had lots of worries about my customers, my suppliers, the bills and taxes to pay, and I had many things to do. I had so many concerns that I couldn’t sleep at night. But I felt alive and satisfied. Now, with nothing to do, I am like a dead man.”
Some individuals seek shelter inside their family or get married to feel safe and stable. Often, people become engaged to someone who is a second-choice lover. They cannot get the person they truly desire, and resort to living with someone they don’t love just for the sake of safety.
For some people, meeting friends seems to be a daily challenge. They go to dance schools, gyms, bars, and similar places in an attempt to meet friends. But the more friends they get the more they feel alone, because their search for friendship comes from the void they have inside. Running after friends might be considered as an escape from reality as well. People fear remaining alone. They dread having to look inside themselves, so they flee from their loneliness and try to fill their inner void through friends.
All the cases mentioned above are clear examples of escaping from reality, from life. Some people are unable to live as they want, and flee from their painful condition to take refuge in some activity that can give them the illusion of being alive and safe. I have always avoided watching too much TV or staying in front of my laptop too long, as it can also signify an escape from reality.
I don’t set myself up as an expert. I am just a good observer of people and situations. I have realized that anything we get involved in so much that we become identified with it, takes us away from real and authentic life, which requests that we live it fully and in all its facets.
This is an excerpt from A Hidden Sicilian History by Ettore Grillo
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
-Travels of the Mind