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Flight from Reality
[From: Mortals and Others, v.1, 1975.］
このような逃避は、さまざまな形態をとる。最も粗野な種類の逃避は、多数の中編小説や映画で供給される。それらのなかで、無名の若い男あるいは女が著しい成功をおさめたり、金持ちとの結婚をしたりする。これよりも少しレベルの高い逃避は、歴史や過去の栄光の想像のなかへの逃避である。それよりもさらに高い段階の逃避は、天文学のような分野で実現される。天文学者のジーンズ卿（Sir James Hopwood Jeans, 1877年-1946：イギリスの物理学者、天文学者、数学者）やエディントン卿（Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, 1882年-1944年：イギリスの天文学者）の書いた本がよく読まれている理由の一つは、星は極めて静かな一生を送っているように見えるからである。星は税金の取立てや子供の病気や不景気などにわずらわされることがない。もし自分が想像の世界で星や星雲と同一視できたならば、とても心がなごむことであろう。
Why do people read? The answer, as regards the great majority, is: 'They don't.' The majority of mankind read nothing at all; of the remainder, the majority read only the picture papers. Of those who read something more than picture papers, the majority never gets as far as books. All the readers of books - grave and gay, profound and superficial, scientific, literary or lurid - all put together are a very small fraction of the population. Nevertheless they differ among themselves in all sorts of ways. There are those who read in order to acquire information; they are generally very young. There are those who read in order to acquire confirmation of their prejudices; these people are what is called mature. But the great bulk of readers are seeking neither knowledge nor support for their own opinions, but an escape from reality into the world of imagination.|
This escape takes all sorts of forms. The crudest kind is that supplied by many novelettes and films, where an obscure young man or woman achieves conspicuous success or a rich marriage. At a slightly higher level come those who seek escape in history and in imagining the glories of past ages. A still further stage is and reached in such subjects as astronomy. The success of such books as those of Jeans and Eddington is partly due to the fact that the stars seem to have a very quiet life ; they are not troubled by the tax collector, or by the illnesses of their children, or by business depression. If you can once identify yourself in imagination with a star or a nebula, you will find it wonderfully soothing.
But people do not only desire to be soothed, they desire also to be excited. For my part, it is this latter desire that dictates most of my reading. I am in the habit of saying that I never read the sort of books that I write. If I could write the sort of books that I read, I would do so; but this talent has been denied me. My favourite reading consists of detective stories. If I could write detective stories, I should have no doubt that I had contributed to human happiness, which, as things are, remains open to questron.
Detective stories, poetry, and astronomy, all represent different forms of the escape from what is called 'reality'. We are told by psychoanalysis that the desire to escape from reality is a very bad thing, but to my mind they exaggerate and fail to make some necessary distinctions. The desire to escape from reality becomes a bad thing when it produces delusions or causes a man to neglect his business. A man may become so poor and be so harassed by his creditors that he finds relief in believing himself to be president of the Bank of France. This form of escape from reality is to be deplored. A young woman may become so absorbed in romantic tales of the King Cophetua type that she neglects her work and finally loses her job. This also is to be deplored. But there are other forms of escape from reality which are wholly desirable. Mozart used to compose music in order to forget his duns and his debts by escaping into a world of phantasy. If he had followed the advice of eminent psychoanalysts, he would instead have drawn up a careful balance sheet of receipts and expenditures and set to work to devise economies by which the two could be made to balance. If he had done this, he would have lost his income, and we should have lost his music. Escape from reality, as this instance shows, is not undesirable when it is into a world of imagination recognised as such and used as a means of making reality itself more tolerable.
I believe that without this motive of escape from reality, almost all the most delightful things in the world would have failed to be produced. I am therefore of the opinion that those whose reading is dictated by this motive - the desire to escape - are not on that account to be condemned.