Good-hearted people, who want better for their family, community and the whole world, are often charged with the romantics’ idea of escapism.
The people with artistic sensibilities more than scientific (or technological) make up the escapist group.
They are labeled as out of the world thinkers and said to have no actual understanding of how things work in the real world.
If you think about the charges again, why they call you escapist and what are your actions? They are not wrong, but at the same time, they are also not right.
Moreover, you can’t blame them for thinking in such a way. In reality, it is happening because of you. Because you are doing it in a wrong way.
So, what you have to do?
Escape not from the reality but an escape into the reality.
You heard it right. Escape into the reality.
There is a verse in Bhagavad Gita, Song of Divine, Chapter 5
संन्यास: कर्मयोगश्च नि:श्रेयसकरावुभौ |
तयोस्तु कर्मसंन्यासात्कर्मयोगो विशिष्यते ||
Bhagavad Gita Chapter 5, Verse 2
sannyāsaḥ karma-yogaśh cha niḥśhreyasa-karāvubhau
tayos tu karma-sannyāsāt karma-yogo viśhiṣhyate
Both the paths, karm sanyās (renunciation of actions) and karm yog (working in devotion) lead to the supreme goal. But karm yog is superior to karm sanyās.1
The idea is further developed,
साङ्ख्ययोगौ पृथग्बाला: प्रवदन्ति न पण्डिता:|
एकमप्यास्थित: सम्यगुभयोर्विन्दते फलम् ||
Bhagavad Gita Chapter 5, Verse 4
sānkhya-yogau pṛithag bālāḥ pravadanti na paṇḍitāḥ
ekamapyāsthitaḥ samyag ubhayor vindate phalam
Only the ignorant speak of sānkhya (renunciation of actions) and karm yog (work in devotion) as different. Those who are truly learned say that by applying ourselves to any one of these paths, we can achieve the results of both.2
In simple terms, these verses means it is easy to act than preach (talk or debate) about the things. The path of action is a way more superior to any other path. Moreover, it is foolish to say your action will not lead you anywhere or there will be no change. There will be change and it will lead you to your goals (and the internal bliss).
Though it is hard to say whether Johann Wolfgang von Goethe read Bhagavad Gita or not,3 but he can be said a true exemplar of above two verses, or a person who escapes into reality.
Goethe was a huge hit as a novelist by the age of 24. His first novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther, was a runaway success and remained a bestseller for almost 25 years in Europe. Along with that, he was also a poet, playwright, and man of letters. In addition, he made some important contribution in the fields of physiology, geology, botany and optics.4 His first scientific paper, Metamorphosis of Plants, published in 1790, was a important paper in the field of homology. Though, the field came into full realization, fifty years later, in 1840.
There was one peculiar thing about Goethe, despite of his successful literary career, he joined the civil services and remained in the office for most of his life. His jobs include minister of roads, and overseer to silver-mining operation. He later undertook diplomatic missions and made important decision around education and urban planning.
In 1782, when chancellor of the Duchy’s Exchequer left his office, Goethe became acting-chancellor for next two and half years. He simply became Prime Minister (or President if you are American) of the Duchy. He was able to carry out what he wants in the way he wants, and not remained a meek advisor. In same year, Goethe was ennobled by the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, Karl August, which is indicated by “von” in his name.
Though some of his decisions are highly debatable and can be considered inhumanitarian, but he also made lot of contribution to his society and his administration can be considered good.5
Goethe is not one such example, there are many more like him. There are people who believe in escaping into the reality, not from the reality.
To name a few, Richard Feynman, Andy Warhol, and Anupam Mishra fit the bill. These extraordinary men have shown that you need to act, not preach.
So, Escape into Reality. That’s it.
- Chapter 5, Verse 2 – Bhagavad Gita, The Song of God, Swami Mukundanada
- Chapter 5, Verse 4 – Bhagavad Gita, The Song of God, Swami Mukundanada
- Brooks, Thom, Review of The German Gita: Hermeneutics and Discipline in the German Reception of Indian Thought by Bradley L. Herling, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, Retrieved Online: December 24, 2016.
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Book of Life, Retrieved Online: December 24, 2016.
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Wikipedia, Retrieved Online: December 24, 2016.