Make the world go away
And get it off my shoulders
Say the things you used to say
And make the world go away.
These words from Eddy Arnold, an old country-western great, really speak to me from time to time. Everyone feels from time to time that they wish to “check out,” perhaps using the old line from Star Trek, “Beam me up Scotty. There is no intelligent life down here.” The need to escape is part of being human and requires us to find appropriate ways of making the escape. For, there are many “escapes” that are costly or devastating in the long-run such as addiction, or fanatical beliefs…of any sort… or insanity, or even at an extreme suicide. These are all merely ways of saying, “I hurt too much! Stop it! Give me an escape! I can’t take this anymore.”
Shakespeare had insight regarding the escape into insanity and btw, all of these “escapes” carried to an extreme become insanity. For example, Hamlet pined re his desire to, “Flee to a nutshell and there be the king of infinite spaces.” This brilliant image of retreating to a private world is an astute description of insanity, which is always a retreat to a private reference system where one is freed….at least in his mind…from the “thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.” There, the assault of reality might continue, but the individual ensconced in his private prison will be oblivious to the “assault.” “Free at last! Free at last! Praise God, I’m free at last,” he might say. But this “freedom” is an ugly escape from reality, for actually it is the antithesis of freedom as one is then in the bondage of his own whims and fancies. Paul Tillich called it “an empty world of self-relatedness.”
And all escapes have some risk for if they become too much a preference over reality, they can devolve into insanity. Religion is such a classic example of how a valid “escape” can become a prison. And a glass of wine or shot of bourbon can become such a delightful escape, or release, that addiction sets in and one disappears into the bottle. (And I admit, I have some experience with this “disappearance.”)
Arnold’s lovely tune also offered a marvelous escape…of the adaptive variety…as it was a love song and he was pining for the solace of relationship when his lover would again, “Say the things you used to say, and make the world go away.”