mental diversion by means of entertainment or recreation

Escapism is the avoidance of unpleasant, boring, arduous, scary, or banal aspects of daily life. It can also be used as a term to define the actions people take to help relieve persisting feelings of depression or general sadness.

Ludwig II of Bavaria would "escape" into the world of Wagnerian mythology


  • Chorus: Let not thy love to man o'erleap the bounds
    Of reason, nor neglect thy wretched state:
    So my fond hope suggests thou shalt be free
    From these base chains, nor less in power than Jove.
    Prometheus: Not thus—it is not in the Fates that thus
    These things should end; crush'd with a thousand wrongs,
    A thousand woes, I shall escape these chains.
    Necessity is stronger far than art.
    Chorus: Who then is ruler of necessity?
    Prometheus: The triple Fates and unforgetting Furies.
    Chorus: Must Jove then yield to their superior power?
    Prometheus: He no way shall escape his destined fate.
  • Shakespeare's final Exeunts order us out of the theater because the unfinished business they leave us with cannot be transacted there. ...
    What stage death offers the hero is an escape from this verbal dying into the rest that is silence. ...a critique of this commitment to stageable closure as an escape from meaning. ...
    This critique speaks to the ethical limits of such notions as Aristotle's circumscribed concept of courage, the courage that thinks to prove itself by facing death in battle as "the most terrible thing of all." ...Aristotle limits the range of the term according to the doctrine of the mean: "to seek death in order to escape from poverty, or the pangs of love, or from pain or sorrow, is not the act of a courageous man, but rather of a coward; for it is weakness to fly from troubles, and the suicide does not endure death because it is noble to do so, but to escape evil." But the interest, pathos, and poignancy of Shakespear's warrior-heroes is produced by ignoring this distinction.
    • Harry Berger Jr., "Food for Words: Hotspur and the Discourse of Honor," William Shakespeare: Histories (2009) ed. Harold Bloom
  • A horse is the projection of peoples' dreams about themselves - strong, powerful, beautiful - and it has the capability of giving us escape from our mundane existence.
    • Pam Brown as quoted by Karen Weekes Women Know Everything!: 3,241 Quips, Quotes, & Brilliant Remarks (2007) p. 214.
  • Bhikkhus, this Kassapa is content with any kind of almsfood, and he speaks in praise of contentment with any kind of almsfood, and he does not engage in a wrong search, in what is improper, for the sake of a almsfood. If he does not get almsfood he is not agitated, and if he gets it he uses it without being tied to it, uninfatuated with it, not blindly absorbed in it, seeing the danger in it, understanding the escape. ...
    Therefore, bhikkhus, you should train yourselves thus: 'We will be content with any kind of almsfood, and we will speak in praise of contentment with any kind of almsfood, and we will not engage in a wrong search, in what is improper, for the sake of almsfood. If we do not get almsfood we will not be agitated, and if we get it we will use it without being tied to it, uninfatuated with it, not blindly absorbed in it, seeing the danger in it, understanding the escape.
  • I believe with Schopenhauer that one of the strongest motives that leads men to art and science is to escape from everyday life with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness, from the fetters of one's own ever shifting desires. A finely tempered nature longs to escape from personal life into the world of objective perception and thought; this desire may be compared with the townsman's irresistible longing to escape from his noisy, cramped surroundings into the silence of high mountains, where the eye ranges freely through the still, pure air and fondly traces out the restful contours apparently built for eternity. ...
    Man tries to make for himself in the fashion that suits him best a simplified and intelligible picture of the world; he then tries to some extent to substitute this cosmos of his for the world of experience, and thus to overcome it. That is what the painter, the poet, the speculative philosopher, and the natural scientist do, each in his own fashion. Each makes this cosmos and its construction the pivot of his emotional life, in order to find in this way the peace and security which he cannot find in the narrow whirlpool of personal experience.
    • Albert Einstein, "Principles of Research" (1918) address delivered in celebration of Max Planck's 60th birthday before the Physical Society in Berlin, in Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions (1954)
  • The bad poet is usually unconscious where he ought to be conscious, and conscious where he ought to be unconscious. Both errors tend to make him "personal." Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.
  • They constantly try to escape
    From the darkness outside and within
    By dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.
    But the man that is shall shadow
    The man that pretends to be.
  • What is hell? Hell is oneself.
    Hell is alone, the other figures in it
    Merely projections. There is nothing to escape from
    And nothing to escape to. One is always alone.
  • The foolish read to escape reality; the wise surrender to it.
    • Tom Heehler, Well-Spoken Thesaurus: The Most Powerful Ways to Say Everyday Words and Phrases, p. 176.
  • Unless a man has talents to make something of himself, freedom is an irksome burden. Of what avail is freedom to choose if the self be ineffectual? We join a mass movement to escape individual responsibility, or, in the words of the ardent young Nazi, "to be free from freedom." It was not sheer hypocrisy when the rank-and-file Nazis declared themselves not guilty of all the enormities they had committed. They considered themselves cheated and maligned when made to shoulder responsibility for obeying orders. Had they not joined the Nazi movement in order to be free from responsibility?
  • The urge to escape our real self is also an urge to escape the rational and the obvious. The refusal to see ourselves as we are develops a distaste for facts and cold logic. There is no hope for the frustrated in the actual and the possible. Salvation can come to them only from the miraculous, which seeps through a crack in the iron wall of inexorable reality. They ask to be deceived. What Stresemann said of the Germans is true of the frustrated in general: "They pray not only for their daily bread, but also for their daily illusion."
    • Eric Hoffer, The True Believer (1951) Part Three: United Action and Self-Sacrifice, Sect. 59.
  • With some people solitariness is an escape not from others but from themselves. For they see in the eyes of others only a reflection of themselves.
    • Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State Of Mind, and Other Aphorisms (1955) Sect. 211.
  • All the passionate pursuits of the weak are in some degree a striving to escape, blur, or disguise an unwanted self. It is a striving shot through with malice, envy, self-deception, and a host of petty impulses; yet it often culminates in superb achievements. Thus we find that people who fail in everyday affairs often show a tendency to reach out for the impossible. They become responsive to grandiose schemes, and will display unequaled steadfastness, formidable energies and a special fitness in the performance of tasks which would stump superior people. It seems paradoxical that defeat in dealing with the possible should embolden people to attempt the impossible, but a familiarity with the mentality of the weak reveals that what seems a path of daring is actually an easy way out: It is to escape the responsibility for failure that the weak so eagerly throw themselves into grandiose undertakings. For when we fail in attaining the possible the blame is solely ours, but when we fail in attaining the impossible we are justified in attributing it to the magnitude of the task.
    • Eric Hoffer, The Ordeal of Change (1963) Ch. 15 "The Unnaturalness Of Human Nature."
    • We take for granted the need to escape the self. Yet the self can also be a refuge. In totalitarian countries the great hunger is for private life. Absorption in the minutiae of an individual existence is the only refuge from the apocalyptic madhouse staged by maniacal saviors of humanity.
    • Eric Hoffer, Reflections on the Human Condition (1973) Sect. 55.
  • Science ... cannot conceive of any means of achieving that escape from desires we call "contentment" otherwise than through the satisfaction of those desires; it has not yet learnt that there is no limit to the multiplication of desires, nor that, since different people's desires are often mutually incompatible, an indefinite multiplication of desires increases conflict as well as discontent.
  • It is all escapism to feel dependent. By such an attitude you just lame yourself... The right way is your own way, and you should make yourself go on that way.
    • Carl Jung, "Letter to Mr. O" (May 20, 1947) Letters of C. G. Jung: Volume I, 1906-1950 (2015)
  • It is Schopenhauer's argument in his essay "On Suicide," that the possibility of easy and painless self-destruction is the only thing that constantly and considerably ameliorates the horror of human life. Suicide is a means of escape from the world and its tortures—and therefore it is good. It is an ever-present refuge for the weak, the weary and the hopeless. It is, in Pliny's phrase, the greatest of all blessings which Nature gives to man," and one which even God himself lacks, for "he could not compass his own death, if he willed to die." In all of this exaltation of surrender, of course, there is nothing whatever in common with the dionysian philosophy of defiance. Nietzche's teaching is all in the other direction. He urges, not surrender, but battle; not flight, but war to the end. His curse falls upon those "preachers of death" who counsel "an abandonment of life"—whether this abandonment be partial, as in asceticism, or actual, as in suicide. And yet Zarathustra sings the song of "free death" and says that the higher man must learn to die "at the right time." ..
    Schopenhauer regards suicide as a means of escape, Neitzche sees it as a means of good riddance. It is time to die, says Zarathustra, when the purpose of life ceases to be attainable...
  • All literature, but especially literature of the weird and the fantastic, is a cave where both readers and writers hide from life. (Which is exactly why so many parents and teachers, spotting a teenager with a collection of stories by Lovecraft, Bloch, or Clark Ashton Smith, are apt to cry, “Why are you reading that useless junk?”) It is in just such caves—such places of refuge—that we lick our wounds and prepare for the next battle out in the real world.
  • To escape one's virtues.—What of a thinker who does not occasionally know how to escape his own virtues? Is he supposed to be more than a moral being?
  • The people of Israel. One of the spectacles which the coming century holds in store for us, is the decision regarding the fate of the European Jews. There is not the slightest doubt that they have cast their die and traversed their Rubicon: the only thing which remains for them is either to become the masters of Europe or to lose Europe, as they once, ages ago, lost Egypt, where they had to face a similar dilemma. But in Europe they have gone through a school of eighteen centuries, such as no other nation can boast of, and the experiences of this terrible time of probation have benefited the community much less than the individual. In consequence whereof the resourcefulness in soul and intellect of our modern Jews is extraordinary. In times of extremity they, least of all the inhabitants of Europe, try to escape any great dilemma by a recourse to drink or to suicide—which less gifted people are so apt to fly to. Each Jew finds in the history of his fathers and grandfathers a voluminous record of instances of the greatest coolness and perseverance in terrible positions, of most artful cunning and clever fencing with misfortune and chance; their bravery under the cloak of wretched submissiveness, their heroism in the spernere se sperni surpass the virtues of all the saints.
  • Faced with problems and disappointments, many people will try to escape from their responsibility: escape in selfishness, escape in sexual pleasure, escape in drugs, escape in violence, escape in indifference and cynical attitudes. But today, I propose to you the option of love, which is the opposite of escape.
  • Neither life nor happiness can be achieved by the pursuit of irrational whims. Just as man is free to attempt to survive by any random means, as a parasite, a moocher or a looter, but not free to succeed at it beyond the range of the moment—so he is free to seek his happiness in any irrational fraud, any whim, any delusion, any mindless escape from reality, but not free to succeed at it beyond the range of the moment nor to escape the consequences.
    • Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness (1964)
  • The most profound breach in this country is not between the rich and the poor, but between the people and the intellectuals. In their view of life, the American people are predominantly Apollonian. The mainstream intellectuals are Dionysian. This means the people are reality-oriented, common sense-oriented, technology-oriented. The intellectuals call this "materialistic," and "middle-class." The intellectuals are emotion-oriented, and seek in panic an escape from a reality they are unable to deal with, and from a technological civilization that ignores their feelings.
    • Ayn Rand, Apollo and Dionysus (1969)
  • And this is the whole shabby secret: to some men, the sight of an achievement is a reproach, a reminder that their own lives are irrational, and that there is no loophole - no escape from reason and reality. Their resentment is the cornered Dionysian element baring its teeth.
    • Ayn Rand, Apollo and Dionysus (1969)
  • Is there any doubt that drug addiction is an escape from an unbearable inner state - from a reality that one cannot deal with - from an atrophying mind one can never fully destroy? If Apollonian reason were unnatural to man, and Dionysian intuition brought him closer to nature and truth, the apostles of irrationality would not have to resort to drugs. Happy, self-confident men do not seek to get stoned. Drug addiction is the attempt to obliterate one's consciousness, the quest for a deliberately-induced insanity. As such, it is so obscene and evil that any doubt about the moral character of its practitioners is itself an obscenity.
  • There is a completely different way of stooping to the small, the lowly, and the common, even though it may seem almost the same. Here love does not spring from an abundance of vital power, from firmness and security. Here it is only a euphemism for escape, for the inability to “remain at home” with oneself (chez soi). Turning toward others is but the secondary consequence of this urge to flee from oneself. … Modern philosophical jargon has found a revealing term for this phenomenon, one of the many modern substitutes for love: “altruism.” This love is not directed at a previously discovered positive value, nor does any such value flash up in the act of loving: there is nothing but the urge to turn away from oneself and to lose oneself in other people’s business. We all know a certain type of man frequently found among socialists, suffragettes, and all people with an ever-ready “social conscience”—the kind of person whose social activity is quite clearly prompted by inability to keep his attention focused on himself, on his own tasks and problems.
  • A great affliction of all Philistines is that idealities afford them no entertainment, but to escape from boredom they are always in need of realities.
  • And I prophesy to you who are my murderers, that immediately after my death punishment far heavier than you have inflicted on me will surely await you. Me you have killed because you wanted to escape the accuser, and not to give an account of your lives. But that will not be as you suppose: far otherwise. For I say that there will be more accusers of you than there are now; accusers whom hitherto I have restrained: and as they are younger they will be more severe with you, and you will be more offended at them. For if you think that by killing men you can avoid the accuser censoring your lives, you are mistaken; that is not a way of escape which is either possible or honorable; the easiest and the noblest way is not to be crushing others, but to be improving yourselves.
  • Men cannot, for Nietzche, escape time. It is the effort to remove oneself from history which Nietzche sees at the root of the various attempts at redemption: Hegel, Kant, Schopenhauer, along with the Christians before them and science after, all maintain the existence of a world of transcendental concept(s) (be this God, theoretical reason, the Geist, the laws of physics), as the source for a solution to the problems of earthly being. "Redemption" consists of escaping from this world to that one, or, conversely, having that world take this one over. Given, however, Nietzche's general hostility to such notions of transcendence and two-worldliness, it is unlikely that he would assert the possibility or desirability of escaping the reality of time.
    • Tracy B. Strong, Friedrich Nietzsche and the Politics of Transfiguration (1988)
  • Man’s basic anxiety … drives the anxious subject to establish objects of fear. Anxiety strives to become fear, because fear can be met by courage. … Horror is ordinarily avoided by the transformation of anxiety into fear of something, no matter what. The human mind is not only, as Calvin has said, a permanent factory of idols, it is also a permanent factory of fears—the first in order to escape God, the second in order to escape anxiety. … But ultimately the attempts to transform anxiety into fear are vain. The basic anxiety, the anxiety of a finite being about the threat of nonbeing, cannot be eliminated. It belongs to existence itself.
  • I have claimed that Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which 'Escape' is now so often used. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls? The world outside has not become less real because the prisoner cannot see it.

See also

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