The only way I’ve found to escape life without unintended consequences is to give myself to life. I suppose that is a good example of where straightforward words seem paradoxical. I can essentially lose myself in the moment by utter devotion to that moment and the action (or non-action) therein. I reckon this approach to life is the one experienced by all not-thinking animals, i.e., Do without doing, (wei wu wei). Be involved (responsibility) without being involved (responsibility). (shi wu shi)
Such primal devotion is the only healthy escape I know; I’ve found all the others, alcohol, drugs, sex, rock and roll, work, shopping, eating, etc., have adverse consequences. Especially problematic were those to which I devoted myself fully. Devoting myself to sensual pleasures always promises escape, but never truly delivers. Ironically, devoting myself to the moment makes escape easy. Of course, there are no sensual promises being made in the later, which explains why it is not so very easy to put into practice. Given the choice, we usually choose the promise of pleasure. Rather, the promise of pleasure chooses for us. We are such push-overs. What is pleasurable about pleasure anyway? Is it the lack of stress; a sense of peace; a sense of balance? Not really; it is more like the promise of those which pleasure makes (1). A promise quickly broken.
Take drugs for example.
Alcohol is the drug of choice the world over, where it’s allowed anyway. Why? Essentially, it gives one the easiest way to experience the moment-to-moment, albeit through a fuzzy veil. Alcohol gives the mind a sense of ‘space’. We dearly love worry-free moments-to-moment stillness, silence, and simplicity, yet we are driven to fill-up on the opposites. Only the space which moment-to-moment awareness brings is enough to reverse that rush forward into the future, caused naturally enough by our ability to think that one knows the future (2).
I imagine this is all the truer now that our technology enables a life style that can speed forward at full tilt. It was different when the only way to get somewhere else was to walk there, the only way to communicate with others was to be with them, the only way to eat was to hunt-and-gather up your daily vittles. Life and moment-to-moment went more hand-in-hand before we developed the use of the knotted rope (i.e., a way of keeping track of things?). Still, I suspect our difficulties began long before the use of the knotted rope. We seek to escape from the toll that the dominance of thought exacts on life.
Civilization, through ‘thought-full education’, presses down on spontaneous emotions and individual idiosyncrasies in order to smooth over social divisions. Essentially, we’re ‘strangers’ under the skin. Such social disconnection was an inevitable outcome of the now long-lost-intimacy of a hunter-gatherer tribal life style. Alcohol releases us (esp. those who need to escape from contrived conformity) by helping us tap into deeper emotional realms. Interestingly, Islam seems to compensate for this disconnection somewhat better than other religions. (However, as always, there is a price to pay.)
(1) Pleasure is a kind of biological hoodwink to get us to live life through making ‘pleasurable’ choices. It works great in the wild because there are natural limits on the outcome. Much of civilization has been a clever stacking of the ‘pleasure deck’ in our favor. That is why religions view desire for pleasure as a core problem. Buddha’s Fourth Noble Truths say, “let your sole desire be the performance of your duty” and the Tao Te Ching, says “he who holds fast to this way desires not to be full” and “the sage desires not to desire”
(2) And even if an animal would drink alcohol until it is fall down drunk, it won’t! They don’t have access. After all, cows given unlimited access to highly concentrated rated nutritious food will eat themselves to death. In the wild, they don’t have access. We are similar, as we can see by the epidemic of obesity and the diseases to which it leads. Civilization offers great benefit for humans paid for by the unintended consequences of great global suffering for us and countless other animals.