When I saw the movie her with a couple of friends, one of the themes we discussed after watching it, was our desire to sometimes live in a fantastical world. And I think in some ways we do this already. Our brain and our hearts trick us all the time into thinking and feeling things that we shouldn’t necessarily think or feel. Not only because these things are not real but in the long-term they may even be detrimental. But life is hard; who can blame us?
When you think about life, and I do a lot, it is actually really, really difficult. We get up, we fill our day usually with obligations and responsibilities, and in the midst of it we try to find purpose and direction and happiness along the way. But who would deny that despite the excitements and the blessings that go along with living, life is also largely mundane? It is often one battle after another; it is exhausting, it is scary, and it is always uncertain. We often live like our expectations of what tomorrow might bring are unspoken rights. And whenever we get hurled another curveball or test or trial, we are reminded of our morality. Who wouldn’t want to escape this from time to time?
And indeed people escape in the pleasures they derive from things like good food, good wine, and good company. And when these things are kept in moderation, they are at their best. But if you look around you’ll find that people are living hard, living extremely; taking in too much of everything and ultimately turning things that should have been good, into demons that they sell their souls to. The very things we turned to escape to, end up owning us; we become prisoners in our own lives. We become defined by our things and pleasures and demons. And we find once again that we need to escape some more.
I think we can escape from the pains of this world when we need to, but I don’t think we ought to at the cost of being prisoners to our pleasures. So how do we escape our lives in a way that brings us back to reality unharmed, but in a way that also gives us enough respite and relief in our temporary retreat from the pains of the world? Granted all things are temporary, but pleasure always seems more temporary than pain.
I am not certain of this answer but I think the only way to really escape is firstly in finding solitude in order to maintain perspective in our lives. We need to see ourselves as we really are and not only as a sum total of whatever experience we are currently in. But even more than brief moments of solitude, I think our ability to love and to bask in the better parts of love are how we are able to escape our harsh realities, including escaping from the pains of love. If at times, we can just hold onto to the beautiful realness of what it feels like to be wonderfully loved, I think we can escape.
In the movie her, I believe it found a way to reveal that there is no substitute for being loved by a person – a real person in all their flaws. So maybe we escape the pains of our lives when do a kind deed for someone else; when we call a friend and hear ourselves vent while they listen patiently to our voice. Maybe we escape our lives when we laugh heartily at a joke among pals; when we get drinks with new friends who are becoming a part of our family, and catch up with old ones who are already family. Maybe we escape when we lock eyes with someone who is staring at us with equal desire; when we hold hands with people who have promised to love us right now. Maybe we escape when we call our loved ones and those who have always known us, and let them know how much they mean to us, and how grateful we are to them.
Maybe we can only escape the harshness of the reality of our lives in our acts of love, and by always being aware of how much we are loved. And maybe because of these acts of love, we needn’t escape our lives at all if we choose to live life this way as much as we can; as much as is humanly possible. I don’ know for certain and I can’t make any promises for the outcome. But maybe it’s at the very least, worth a try.