A Blue Christmas in Shangri-La

December 24, 2015

I should apologize, because this isn't even remotely a Christmas themed post. It's Christmas Eve as I'm typing this, and by all means I should be watching It's a Wonderful Life right now, but unfortunately I haven't had much Christmas spirit this year. I've been waiting and waiting for it to finally kick in, but at 11pm on Christmas Eve I'm guessing it just isn't happening this year.

In a way, that lack of spirit is sort of related to this post (although I still don't think that would qualify this post as a Christmas-themed one, by any stretch of the imagination.) I've just had an emotionally draining year, and the one thing that's helped me escape my brain's nagging thoughts over the last 12 months has been movies. There have been days when I have literally been LIVING for the chance to watch a movie when I'm done working. That moment, usually around 1am, I tuck myself into bed and hit play... sheer bliss. Two hours of total, complete happiness in an otherwise oppressively monotonous and stressful day.

While movies have been getting me through the doldrums this year, it's got me thinking a lot about escapism and whether or not it's actually a good thing. I really use film like a drug. Movies cheer me up while they're playing (even the soul-crushing dramas, I just love movies) but when they're over and the screen goes black I'm faced with reality once again.

From oral legends passed down through generations to Roman plays and medieval fairy tales, we've always sought some form of escape from daily life. But in modern society we have constant access to a world of fantasy right at our fingertips. I can watch movies as much as my schedule will allow, any time of the day or night, and disappear into a world where my troubles don't exist.

Does my own existence feel duller because I spend so much of it watching other people partaking in exciting adventures? Does my loneliness feel magnified by the sight of couples onscreen? Would my life seem perfectly acceptable and pleasant if I didn't constantly seek escape in movies? Does perspective beget disappointment, or would the disappointment manifest itself no matter what, and escapism only helps to relieve all of life's little letdowns?

Is it the worst thing ever to start a sentence with "Wikipedia defines"? Because... 

Wikipedia defines Shangri-La as "a permanently happy land, isolated from the outside world" and in a sense, I think movies are my Shangri-La. A world I can visit that's untouched by my own worries and troubles, a place to escape to, a utopia in a world filled with sadness and violence and heartache.

In the game of "in which movie would you like to live?" Lost Horizon constantly appears on my list -- I mean, you've got Ronald Colman and eternal life, I'm not sure many movies can top that? -- because who wouldn't want to live in Shangri-La? And when it comes down to it, I think that answers my escapism question in a nutshell. If given the chance, wouldn't we all move to Shangri-La? And therefore, if we can find a little Shangri-La in our own humdrum lives, be it watching movies or playing golf or knitting scarves, who are we to deny ourselves a piece of Utopia, however small it may be?


Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

A fine post. Very glad you have found a Shangri-La, even if it's only brief visits.

John L said...

I’ve been wanting to comment on this post since I first read it, because it is so thoughtful, and beautiful, and true. I think movies definitely are an escape, and we need that in our lives. Often when I'm drawing, or writing, or playing the guitar, the world disappears, and I sometimes want to stay wrapped up in that feeling forever. I think it's universal, and it makes the world a nicer place to live in. Anyway, thank you so much for writing this post.