Living the world of make-believe
Sunday, February 13, 2011
What is so unpleasant about life that causes people to constantly attempt to get away from it all? Why does someone constantly try to live in a world that is unreal, if only for a short time? How can you make your existence more desirable so you can enjoy ordinary living rather than trying to escape the daily?
Those were all questions I asked and pondered as I watched a show on television. The show caused me to delve into the ways we camouflage what's real. I observed the stories about two infants who had been neglected to the point of death because a parent or caretaker was engaged in playing a computer game. That wasn't the first time my attention had been drawn to children being left alone or becoming a bother to someone involved in a make-believe world.
Two episodes of this particular TV program were dedicated to infants. One baby drowned in the bathtub while mom played a computer game. The other, a feverish child, was shaken so severely he later died. He disturbed his mother by crying and interfering with the computer game she was playing.
Playing computer or video games can be a good thing if you have time to kill, want to be entertained or you're seeking educational pursuits. Unfortunately, game playing can also become addicting, just like alcohol, drugs, overeating or numerous other crutches.
The incidence where the mom critically shook her 12- or 13-month-old infant made me wonder how something as trite as the game she was playing could be that important. Something is wrong. These are just a few of the routes people take in trying to avoid reality. We all like to be entertained, but it has to be for a period of time that's within limits. One in which you're not responsible for anything that's significant.
Games, cell phones, iPads, the Internet and other diversions are available at our fingertips. They are so accessible that those who are attracted to that sort of recreation are able to indulge in the diversions frequently. Then the positive aspects of some games are turned into weapons. The attack is against society. You fail to learn communication skills and take responsibility for what's around you. You talk and interact with people you hardly know. They become your artificial friends, performing make-believe actions. You even assume a new character. You can shed your skin while you're playing and pretend you're someone else.
Real life is so much greater than attempting to escape into another existence. You often return to a worse life because of what you've left undone while seeking amusement. Some can scarcely wait to get home from work or school to again assume his false identity.
For children, especially, there is danger in the scenario. Children frequently talk with unknown adults and questionable people during their role-playing. Children, teens and adults too, bask in the glory of winning battles, showing their expertise at fencing with swords, and mowing people down with machine guns. But it isn't real. The players are the same people when they finish, except for what they experienced while they played make-believe. Parents need to be alert to and assess the situation. What's seemingly innocent can turn into a horror story.
Modern technology allows for better communication and more accessibility to knowledge, resources and entertainment. But it must be tempered with moderation to remain an asset rather than a liability.
Faith in God is the remedy when you feel rejected, bored, unfulfilled, overburdened or you're scared. Jesus says "I am with you always, even until the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20) What God offers is real. It never becomes obsolete.
Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.