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Nexus

Diary of a quarantined sociologist - day 11
By Sarah B. Faulkner
Posted: 2020-09-19T20:34:00Z

Officially in the home stretch before the end of this period of quarantine, I found myself getting lost in the stories of others rather than my own. Being a Sunday I already ‘pre-scheduled’ (again, gotta love the routine) my day off with great gusto. In a repetitive fashion I yet again had coffee on the terrace, hand-washed my delicates in the bathtub, did a long yoga video and ‘unwound’ with much reading, movie watching, and audio book listening. A beautifully sunny day, I also treated myself to a little sun-bathing during lunch-hour; though thanks to the stellar hole in our ozone layer this was rather short lived. After spending a few hours watching a movie, finishing one book before starting another and then hitting up an audiobook on top of it all, I began to think about our natural curiosity as human beings. Our fascination with storytelling as a method of escapism.  While reading is not everyone’s cup of tea, for those that it is the just sheer number of genres available is astounding. Within fiction alone you have the basic genres of murder, mystery, fantasy, action/adventure, drama, romance, comedy, horror, country western, young adult etc- many of which have significant sub-categories and sub-genres, like legal thriller, historical romance, distopia, magic realism, hard sci-fi, soft sci-fi, for example.   Even non-fiction itself has more categories than I care to go into here. For those who are not traditional readers there is music, audio books, graphic novels, short films, long films, tv-series, video games and so on. On and on it goes.  

My point being, I guess, is that as social beings we love a good story. We love to get outside of our own worlds at times to explore the lives of other beings, either real or imaginary. We become enthralled by the change and evolution of characters- loathing some ( i.e Voldemort) and loving others. We find ourselves on the edge of our seats desperate to know what happens to our heroine/hero or ‘who done it’ (in murder mystery parlance). We become so heavily invested in the stories sometimes that we find ourselves binging for hours on a series or forgetting about that paper you should be writing or the laundry you should be washing because we just NEED TO KNOW where the story goes. We get lost in melodies and lyrics. We find ourselves laughing out loud, sobbing out loud (sometimes embarrassingly on a plane), and getting out-right emotional when things do or do not go the way that we expected/wanted/wished.  Sometimes these are true stories, sometimes they may have truth as their foundation, or sometimes they are purely made up. But what doesn’t change, however, is our sheer desire to spend hours, days, weeks and months invested in the stories of others and how we quite often develop emotional attachments to them. My father, for example, refuses to watch a movie that does not have a quote- on -quote ‘happy ending’. So many times he has left the room during a movie or a show because he didn’t trust that it would end well and until someone looked it up on Google and read him the synopsis (quite literally ruining the ending), would he finish it. My family literally uses the phrase ‘Burrage family approved ending’ when sharing movie and book suggestions as code to highlight that it ends happily. Not realistic. Oh no. Happily. 

Today I found myself exploring the story of Aboriginal Agriculture, before watching the story of a romance between two people who met on a plane. This was followed by becoming engrossed in the tale of a South Australian Chef going on a ‘life journey’ to Ireland, before listening to a man’s journey from sailor to prisoner to Count. While I could use the excuse of quarantine to bolster the fact that my need for escapism is increased, I cannot say that this experience is totally unique. So many of us (myself included) have spent hours a day reading books, watching movies or listening to music. What is it about the stories of others that enthralls us so much? Why are we always so desperate to go beyond the story being lived by our own life to see the ones written, acted or performed by others? While too much escapism can have a negative effect on a person’s mental health and well-being, there are also positive aspects as well. There are no doubt complex answers to all of these questions (perhaps theses I am yet to read on the topic), but perhaps it also relates to our natural human curiosity and the fact that we are inherently social creatures. Maybe it is the inner sociologist in me, but perhaps we are all sociologists in our own way? We spend time analysing, studying and learning about other beings, other stories, in order to develop our own understanding about life and the world around us. We devour and absorb the tales of others in order to learn more about ourselves and the people we share this planet with. Maybe or maybe not. It could also just be that I have spent 11 days alone in a hotel room,  have had far too much time alone with my thoughts, and seek justification for methods of escapism too readily.  You decide.