February 19, 2016 - March 20, 2016: Escapism

The Pisces sign is possibly the most complex of the zodiac, because although Pisceans are famous for their spiritual maturity and empathy, they can also be quite detached. Pisceans have learned to create their own worlds and consciously craft their own narratives; while all people do this to some extent, this can lead to problems if they lack practical people in their lives to help bring them back to reality. 

Human beings are escape artists, and we manage this in a number of ways. We build walls, we use defense mechanisms, we push people away or we simply retreat into our own comforts when we sense danger. Sometimes, we turn to self-destructive behaviors. Often, we can escape into the realms of fantasy and fiction: movies, books, storytelling (our own or otherwise). We all create and embellish in order to deal with the tragedy of everyday life. As T.S. Eliot wrote, “human kind / cannot bear very much reality.”

As is true in most everything, it's not healthy to be too far on either end of the spectrum. I wonder if it’s even possible to simultaneously manage your feet on the ground and your head in the clouds, but it seems worthwhile to give it a go. 

The first step, I think, is to be able to identify your own personal foxholes. Once you’re aware of what you’re using in order to hide, or to be ripped away from consciousness, you can use it more purposefully and to your advantage, rather than running the risk of abuse. 

  1. I daydream. I run over hundreds of different scenarios in my head, of hundreds of different situations, before I go to sleep. I retreat and observe. I will look at something simple and immediately crystallize it into a moment like a movie still: a silhouette framed by a pink blur moving past the train window; Dan, Ben and Joe talking to fisherman on the beach in Barcelona, doused in dark blue dusk; holding a lukewarm beer, looking up at your friend in the middle of telling a joke and his eyes are very, very bright. 
  2. Music has long been my most reliable source of existential security, particularly in full-album form. There is always a narrative and otherworldliness found in the way the tracks have been arranged, very purposefully, by the artist. Rihanna’s ANTI has been reminding me of this recently, as well as Kanye’s The Life of Pablo. This is very important to me so this number one gets some sub-category bullet points (v exciting stuff). 
    1.  I had never really been sold on Rihanna (a Pisces, incedentally) before now, preferring to side-eye her flourishing career as she reigned over the singles chart. “Diamond,” “Umbrella,” “We Found Love,” et cetera. Eh. But with ANTI, I am so glad to fully embrace her as an album artist; it’s an experience built for the listener with wave-like currents, rhythmic themes and pure vibes. It feels like the third space you slip into between falling and sleeping. 
    2. TLOP is kind of fucking me up, tbh. Kanye (Pisces moon) has created the most conflicted and engaging album of his career; on one hand, I am obsessed with the indecision of it. Stylistically and thematically, it’s all over the place and it feels like being forced into the recesses of Kanye’s undoubtedly volcanic brain (Rolling Stone: "West just drops broken pieces of his psyche all over the album and challenges you to fit them together"). Going from a gospel-heavy opening track to an anthem about fame masquerading as a hymn—where one of the opening lines involves talking about a model's bleached asshole—is extremely jarring. That's part of what makes it real. On the other hand, the Type A in me gravitates towards Kanye’s original Three Acts organization, which helps it flow as a more cohesive narrative. Either way, this album is insane. I don't know how else to describe it. 
    3. There are albums that are indescribably transportive, albums that feel like physical locations, albums that make it, like, so important to invest in over-the-ear headphones just so you can spend an entire Sunday afternoon lying on your bed and losing yourself inside of them like a teen on "One Tree Hill." As Halsey—who literally conceived her debut album Badlands as a concept work about an imaginary dystopian city—has said, “my favorite records...are records that I feel like exist in their own universe." Some of my favorites: AM by Arctic Monkeys, For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver, 13 by Blur, Trouble Will Find Me by The National, The Wall by Pink Floyd, Pure Heroine by Lorde. 
  3. Books (of course, I need to say it as a cliché English major) have always been incredibly escapist. Books ruin us; books build us; and sometimes we go so far as to treat them like reality, developing genuine emotional connections to the characters. JK Rowling’s Potter universe has absolutely embodied this concept both figuratively and literally: Harry & company have indeed stretched beyond the series into our own “real” world, from Pottermore online to an actual theme park. 
  4. In a similar vein of thinking: poetry. Poetry has never belonged to to the poets but to whoever needs it, and it doesn’t play by anyone's rules. 
  5. Isolation and self-reflection absolutely consume me, often in a somewhat masochistic way. The process of bettering oneself must go hand-in-hand with wide-eyed, unyielding criticism, and there is no one who can provide that better than me (Man Repeller: “you can’t set a goal for yourself without having done the dirty work of beating yourself down emotionally and then raising yourself way back up”). Sometimes it’s even weirdly comforting to think that no one will ever be able to insult a part of me that I haven’t already torn apart. Better to sit with my feelings and find my way around them than to grow a new tooth for each one, asking other people to pull them. Focusing on myself allows me to forget the unreliability of others. 

It’s a little past midnight in Madrid. At press time, my thoughts are characterized by a need for surrealism. An online Color Interpretation test recently told me: “the fear that you could suffer loss, harm or even shipwreck lies deep inside you. But one thing is utterly clear to you: your present situation requires a quiet hobby, or the world of your thoughts, dreams and fantasies.” When the difficulties of daily life or human interaction become too much, I have plenty of things to retreat to, constantly seeking some inner detachedness and peace. But a particular help in achieving this needs to be optimistic self-encouragement, a rejection of my overwhelming capacity for self-debasing thoughts; or shipwreck, I think, is inevitable.