When I am sad, I often read Sherlock Holmes: lots of Sherlock Holmes. Victoria and Albert is excellent television comfort food and Mary Poppins works well as far as movie goes.
Every so often a retreat from the slings and arrows of outrageous America is welcome.
I need to remind myself that such a retreat can go too long. Somewhere between reading Hound of the Baskerville and The Complete Sherlock Holmes a weekend gets lost and, generally, that is not acceptable.
A lost weekend to amusement is better than one lost to alcohol, but not by much. Reality still waits and problems put off are not, generally, any better. Putting them off too long may be restful, but it often makes the issues worse.
So the warnings about living in virtual reality, whether nineteenth century sermons about gluttonous novel reading or modern warnings about days spent on Halo are true. Why?
Escaping can short-circuit the growth, the growing pains, needed to mature.
But I have become convinced the critics do not go far enough. Moderns long to escape, I think, to Doyle, Master Chief, or Middle Earth, because much of the world in which we are forced to live is also unreal.
The man chained to a cubicle with the end goal of sitting in a corner office has an unreal goal causing maximum pain. The goal, if it is personal affluence, is unreal and unworthy and the pain endured to achieve it a waste. If he reaches his goal, he will discover the futility of the quest.
At least spending his day in amusements might provide some amusement. “Fun” may often cheat us, but it promises very little at the start. The grind of school, work, and social advancement promises happiness and always fails to deliver.
The sacrifice required to be cool is more rigorous than any monastic order with no Divine Vision at the end.
We may retreat when we read novels, play games, or watch film, but it isn’t usually from Reality. Instead, we retreat from a social construct where we are forced to live cut off from reality.
It is a society that loves children, but is set up to making raising them hard.
It is a society that confuses high SAT scores with real education and values education for an ability to “get a good job.”
It is a society centered on endless work, much of it without dignity.
It is a society that promotes endless consumption as the chief duty of man.
These are all lies, but many if not most of us are forced to live in sub-cultures dedicated to them.
The good news is that in a free society we can be disillusioned with unreality and still live as free men and women. We can work to earn our daily bread, but not view “the office” as the center of our lives. We can value people as people and not primarily as “co-workers,” “contacts,” or the “competition.”
We can learn and oddly enough will usually earn decent SATs. We can create instead of consume, since nobody is forcing us, yet, to buy products.
It seems to me that our primary, devastating, retreat from Reality begins when we deny that the whole duty of humankind is to serve the Good as seen and experienced in Jesus Christ. We are called to love our neighbor and so learn to love God.
Love is to be our primary motivation for all we do. We might fool others into thinking this is so, but we cannot fool our own souls. If we live for the world, the flesh, or the devil, then we are living in an illusion and reality will wear us down.
We will experience pain, but the pain of folly, not growing pains. We will rack ourselves on false fears, comfort ourselves with cheap triumphs, and complain when we are sad, broken, and tired.
Middle age will leave us asking for “more,” because we never got any.
Playing Halo may be closer to reality than going to work, but it does not have to be. Instead, I can embrace the real duty of man, the real nature of things, and live to love.
Lord Jesus Christ son of God have mercy on me a sinner.