I also used to say that stories are an escape from our world. But after having consumed millions of words of stories, I've changed my mind. And here is why.
Stories as an Escape
You’re watching a story at home late at night and your mind starts to float away from reality. You are so consumed and enthralled into the story that nothing matters. The problems, the toxic relationships, the false smiles, and the climb up the ladder no longer matters because you’re not in the real world anymore. You don’t care to look at other people’s problems, because they don’t exists, and their world is not yours… or is it?
This is why people refer to stories as an escape. For a small time, nothing matters, no real-life problems bother you anymore, you can just sit back and be in another world for a while.
But I believe that this feeling is not an escape from our world and our problems, it is simply an extension thereof.
The Reading Experience
I remember reading a light novel called, “beginning after the end”. It is a story of a king being reincarnated into a new world upon his death. A world where the magic, the culture, the people, the races, and the systems were all vastly different from his own. He had people and countries in his first life that needed him. There were hundreds of problems he had to deal with in his original world, but then he died and was reborn into a new one. Even though the problems of the old world were no longer on his shoulders that world didn’t disappear to the main character at all. He was still the same person, and he still had the same thoughts. The people of his life effected the way he lived his next.
This new world brought out many of the flaws he had. It showed him how much of a better person he can be. He could see that the world he previously lived in was not favorable, but also that it made him the man he was. He learned many things that held him back in his previous life and let go of those philosophies. From a king who would see all and any personal connections as a weakness to a soft-hearted citizen who would gladly die for the people he loved.
Now, let me translate this paragraph to fit our situation.
The Living Experience
I remember living a life with the name, Francois. It was a life of a boy born in SA and every so often I read a book. When I read a book, it felt like I was transported to another world. A world where the magic, the culture, the people, the races, and the systems were all vastly different from my own. I had people and responsibilities that needed me in my previous world.
There were hundreds of problems I had to deal with in that original world, but then I was transported to a new one. Even though the problems of the old world were no longer on my shoulders that world didn’t disappear to me at all. I was still the same person, and I still had the same thoughts. The people and experiences of my original life effected the way I experienced the next.
This new world brought out many of the flaws I had. It showed me how much of a better person I can be. I could see that the world I originally lived in was not favorable, but also that it made me the person I was. I learned many things that help me back in my original life and let go of those philosophies. I changed from a person who didn’t know why he existed, to one that created his own reason for existing.
Stories as an Extension
Most accept that stories are not real and that they are simply an escape from our world. But what about momentous personal change, genuine emotion, and long-lasting transformations in thinking and personality is not real. Our real-world problems don’t disappear, they are simply replaced by the worries and problems of the new world. We don’t forget who we are when we are consumed by these stories. Stories don’t take away any experience we have in reality, it simply extends it and helps us to see things about ourselves that we haven’t seen before, and it teaches us a way to keep on living.
Yes, we can’t use magic like in Harry Potter, and we don’t have lightsabers that can cut through the strongest of materials.
But these things are very real.
We all know what magic is and we all know what lightsaber are. With this we can create different types of magic systems and different type of futuristic technology. Billions of people constantly think of things that would never materially exist. But if so many people are thinking about it, if so many people dedicate their lives to creating things that will never materially exist, how does it not form part of our reality?
We talk about stories on a daily basis. We talk about characters from those stories like they are our close friends. We talk about worlds for hours as if we lived in them.
Guess what, those emotions and thoughts are real. If you feel a very deep connection to a character, that connection is just as real as having a genuine friend (though still different in many ways - more on this in future posts)
It’s weird how people read a book and say, “I wish I had a friend like [insert character].” Because if you have gone on a journey with that character though the eyes of the main character, then you are definitely friends.
The point is, stories are not a method of escaping reality, it is a method of extending your reality. You learn new things, you meet new people, you feel new feeling, none of which are fake. Please leave a comment below to share some of your own ideas regarding this topic so we can have a discussion.