There are some who say, like the photo on your left, that reading is an escape from reality. For me reading is a redirection of my attention, a way to unwind and unfocus on mundane or stressful parts of life. Unlike coolly logical Mr Spock from the planet Vulcan, where everyone keeps a tight grasp on their emotions, we Earthlings usually have those moments when we feel like we’re spinning out of control. Olivia, in Driving in Neutral, loses traction on her life amid a group of drunken bridesmaids.
Me? I lose traction at least once a month. In between my reading (and writing and movie-going) I have short-lived bouts of Anthrophobia, the fear of human society.
It’s not hard to understand why anthrophobia strikes me. Although I read for pleasure–yes, literati types who insist reading has to teach you something or make you suffer, I read for pleasure — I also read to stay informed. I read, and listen to the news. I read about Boko Haram and kidnapped girls in Nigeria, school shootings in the USA, fighting in Syria and Iraq, starving children, the endless hatred of one ethnic group over another ethnic group on a daily basis. While the person who cracks and open fire in cinemas commits a horrifying act of violence, it is typical that there is only one nutcase involved in the mass murder, whereas war involves an entire society. I am shocked by the mass scale neglect, the hatred, by the killing, by the fact sharing, something we seem to try to teach children to do at a very young age, is suddenly impossible for no real reason other than failing to grasp what sharing is all about.
Yeah, War, as the Edwin Starr song asks, ‘Good God, y’all, what is it good for?’
War kicks off a long moment of raging at the TV, at the radio and newspapers reporting the stories. I cuss and cry and mutter “why? why?‘” as panic worms into me. We humans are our own worst enemy. We are horrible, foul, hateful beings. Instant anthrophobia takes over and makes me want to run away to live on an island or a mountain, like a hermit (in 5 star luxury comfort, of course, none of this Hermit in a cave stuff) far away from human society and “civilisation.”
Then I realise my coffee supply would run out and I’d miss my husband, my family, friends, and new books to read. My escape wouldn’t be an escape or a redirection of my attention. It would be a prison with no coffee. Did I mention that already?
Thankfully, my anthrophobia is fleeting. I can unwind and unfocus and redirect my attention and find pleasure in a book.