Into The Wave

Certain kind of art gets labeled “escapist.” The theory behind such work is that life is hard enough, and so here is a pleasant distraction before you get back to the endless business of staying alive. And no, we won’t spend our lives with our heads in the sand, but reality is usually messy and unsatisfying, and do I really need to be reminded of that in the books I read and the movies I watch? Don’t I already know that opening my eyes every day? I have deep sympathy for the reader who wishes to escape. I have spent considerable energy over the years trying to escape my own life. It’s not easy. My life is going on constantly, all around me, and no matter which way I run, there it is again, still waiting for me. Certain activities, some more legal than others, have served as distractions, but there is something highly unsatisfying about being distracted from my own life. It’s like going to a feast with a clothespin on my nose so I in case eat something I dislike.

Yet everyone in the world wants to feel safe. If the seeming disorder of the world—the terrorism, and the bankruptcies, and the failed marriages, and the lying politicians, and the sullen children—if all these inescapables fill us with anxiety, what are we to do? For an answer I am reminded of tidal waves. Apparently, if you are to find yourself confronted with one, you should point your boat directly toward it, sail through the wave to where the calmer waters lie. There is no outrunning the tidal wave, and when it catches you, you’re done.

So too is it with all these things we believe we must escape. Safety always exists through them. The best art is that which guides us in and through, not away from. Beneath the storm of all conflict there runs the peaceful water. What else is there possibly to seek but that? Where are we running but to find that water? Turn your boat. Safety lives in every moment the deeper into life we are willing to go.

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