Why is it that there is such a huge industry for movies, TV shows, and novels? People spend hours and hours each day and week watching these things, instead of living their own life to the fullest. Is it only the desire to escape daily life? I think that's part of it, but I think there's something that comes before that.
It is in the nature of every Yid, and every human being to want to "live" life, and feel like they're really living. I think that the essential element of truly living life is facing obstacles and challenges and then overcoming them through work and perseverance. I think that it is the essential need of the human being. Though this runs counter to our desire for comfort and rest.("Noach lo l'adam shelo nevroh meshenivroh.") It is partly because effort, stress, and toil are difficult for us and run against our nature for comfort and laziness that it gives us a sense of really living when we do it anyway.
In movies, TV shows, and novels we can watch other people facing loss, failure, challenges, bad guys, etc. and through their skill, hard work, perseverence, they win out in the end. I learned in college that what makes a really good book is when the reader really identifies with the author. People like to live life vicariously through the characters they read about or watch in various media. If for just two hours, I can feel good while watching someone on the big screen (or the little screen) fight off evil enemies against all odds, then I can get that feeling of really living without actually having to do it. Really living means facing defeat, and beating it with hard work. So by watching others do it, I can vicariously have that feeling without having to do it in real life.
That's where escapism comes into it. When I am tired of facing life's challenges and I don't want to have to "live" anymore, I can still get that feeling watching someone else do it. It's great to watch someone who trained for 20 years to learn martial arts, use his skills to outsmart and outfight all the bad guys. But I would never do that myself!
I think it's the same thing with thrill seeking like bungee jumping, crazy roller coasters, climbing dangerously high mountains, etc. By going through an experience where I feel like I'm going to die, and then living through that, it helps me feel more alive without having to actually live life.
But normal people don't face bands of dangerous ninjas, airplane hijackers, or wicked super-vilians in the course of their life. So if I can't fight evil and win to feel like I'm living, then how can any of us truly live and fulfill that deep-seated need to live life? More on that in my next post.