Like many Australians, to relax after a day of work, I would either watch a movie on Netflix or play video games. On reflection, the two main reasons why I enjoy this is because it allows me to embark on a journey through artists’ universes or that it allows me to role play a character that I know I can never be in real life.
For example, one of my favourite movie series which I share with many is Star Wars. I loved epic space battles, lightsabre fights and the fantasy “force” to push or mind trick opponents. I am extremely thrilled that we have another trilogy with multiple spin-offs being created and eagerly look forward to further exploring the galaxy far, far away.
When I was younger, I also enjoyed a video game called RollerCoaster Tycoon, as it allowed me to design, build, manage and run my very own (virtual) roller coaster theme park! I would spend hours on this game to create awesome rides for imaginary park attendees.
Today, there are many “all you can consume” services such as Netflix (Movies and TV Series), Spotify (Music) and Audible (eBooks) where we can binge watch and buffet on all the media that we like, on demand.
Upcoming, there are also cheap virtual reality (VR) headsets, which can transport us into another digital dimension. For example, there is a company based in an empty warehouse in Melbourne which equips you with VR headsets. You enter into a post-apocalyptic world full of zombies with your goal being to shoot your way through them to board a transport ship in order to escape.
There is also a field of research looking to develop an “interface” between our brains and computers, whether for medical research or for entertainment.
I find these new technologies and different mediums very exciting, but it does raise questions of how best should we be engaging our minds when relaxing, enjoying, escaping or consuming media? There is risk that we can over-indulge in escapism with media.
Good and bad for different circumstances
Just like any gift or blessing that we receive from God, such as our jobs, money, family or material possessions, we are exhorted in Titus chapter 2, verse 12 to “…say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives...”. We are to use or enjoy the blessings that God has given us in moderation and not excessively indulge in them.
Another author in the Bible, the “Teacher” in Ecclesiastes, wrote from their experience in chapter 2, verses 10-11 summarising:
“10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labour,
and this was the reward for all my toil.
11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.”
One obvious example of over-indulging in media consumption is the procrastinating student who, at 3am, is still watching Netflix despite having an assignment due tomorrow.
There are also understandable circumstances where people might use media to escape from reality. For those going through struggles in life, media helps to temporarily distract from the pain they are going through.
Generally, I would agree that in moderation, this is a good blessing available to them to help cope with a difficult situation. Unfortunately, one will eventually need to face the music and persevere through the suffering once the movie or experience is over. This is where God has provided us with each other and our churches to support, pray and encourage each other through hard times.
True escapism is found in God
What can true escapism look like? The Bible talks to it indirectly through describing the character of God and His promises. The book of Psalms, in chapter 145, is a poem describing aspects of God’s character; graciousness, compassion, trustworthiness, righteousness, looking after His people, and being worthy of all praise. God, the creator of the whole universe including us, also guarantees to us that He will return and unite with us, forming a picture of real “escapism” from troubles and issues we face in this world today.
Today, whilst we may use media and technology to distract us from troubles we face, let us also be reminded that in true reality, we have a God who has promised to look after us and redeem us when He returns. All we need to do is to trust and put our faith in God and look to Him.
What this means is that we should be reflecting on God’s character and praying daily, whether in good or bad times in life. The book of Psalms is an example of how King David would constantly reflect on situations he would be facing in his life. In the Psalms that he writes, he also reflects on who God is and calls out for help or praises God boundlessly.
Despite how amazing the media and technology we have at our fingertips today is, whether a buffet of the greatest movies of all time or an awesome virtual reality game, let us instead be captivated by the reality of the awesomeness of God as our true escapism and hope.
Brandon Tsang is a Sydney-based writer currently working in IT. He studied Marketing and Economics at UNSW and loves to spend his spare time hiking, playing volleyball or watching Netflix.