At work a few weeks ago, I saw a woman buying a calendar that featured the word “escape” in big letters, superimposed onto a photo of an island with a calm ocean and palm trees in front of a clear sky. It made me think of how we are always looking to escape. But what are we trying to escape from, and how will we know when we have successfully “escaped” it?
It is one of those things where we use the concept very generally yet everyone seems to know exactly what we mean. The word is often used in reference to vacations, and it is often associated with a sort of inner peace that must not be prevalent enough in daily life.
It seems that no matter where we are in life, we are always attracted to the idea of an escape. And without it being stated, everyone understands what it is we are trying to escape from. The interesting part of using the word “escape” is that it does not indicate a specific destination. The word escape gives no thought to direction or destination, rather the only idea we get is that the starting place, wherever that may be, is unfavorable.
Something we can gather from this concept of escaping is that it is usually expressed in a moment of high tension. “I need an escape,” rarely comes right after a good evening with friends, or after a long nap, or while sitting on the couch eating ice cream. It is much more likely to follow a long day at work or an encounter with a difficult person, or after returning from the grocery store with several small children.
Also, when we see the word “escape” associated with an image, it is often imposed on a picture of a beach, or a nice landscape or sunset. It is not usually pictured next to a slum, or the inside of a high school building, or a bathroom stall. So even though there is no implied destination to the word “escape”, there are certainly places that we would and would not like to escape to. And since we never need to specify, “I would like to escape to a remote tropical island, but probably not to a prison cell”, it seems that everyone already has a set understanding of which destinations one might be referring to when they express their desire to escape.
But something else to consider is that “escape” may not even be associated with a geographical location.
Sure, some are preferable to others, but perhaps only insofar as some places are more conducive to a certain state of mind that the escapist is hoping to achieve. Because although the type of location we prefer to escape to is understood, the exact place is not. We seem to prefer relaxing environments to stressful ones, but some people would escape to a beach while others would rather escape to the mountains.
Because the precise destination is so variable, in that everyone’s ideal “escape” is different, it can be assumed that some people’s escape destination is filled with inhabitants who just want to escape to someplace else. This brings us to the conclusion that it is almost definitely not a physical place we are headed, but a rare and coveted state of mind.