I helped my kid write a paper on the film Who Is Afraid of Virginia Wolf. The area of discussion was can people live without false illusions. My first question was what is the difference between a false illusion and a true illusion? I could understand good or bad, helpful or hurtful but true and false illusions. I suggested that maybe Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were the false illusions because Taylor’s persona was that of a beautiful sexy women and in the film she played a slightly pudgy, past her prime housewife and Richard Burton played a total wimp. Contrast that to their public image which in today’s vernacular would be described as one of Hollywood’s all time power couple (I say that based on limited knowledge of most things Hollywood and even less interest). In this film they played a dysfunctional couple with no redeeming qualities. No one would want to have a cup of coffee with these two let alone spend an entire evening. Since I had only seen a few scenes of this film on youtube and didn’t take the class I thought this might be rather insightful given my limited knowledge. I was informed this had not been discussed in class so it couldn’t possibly have any merit. In a fatherly, adult manner I responded “Oh gee how will I ever sleep tonight”. This did get me thinking about illusions and life.
If our spouse cheats on us was our marriage a false illusion; was our love a figment of our imagination or was it something real and now is gone, but not necessarily forever. If a friend betrays us was the trust, the bond illusionary or was the betrayal the outlier. I don’t know, but I imagine the answer doesn’t lend itself to a blanket statement. I am not sure all relationships or actions can be judged solely on their consequences, but it may be consequences are the most important factors. Perhaps part of the issue is determining how to weigh one action against the whole. One action may determine what our future actions should be in relationship to the person or entity in question, but does it necessarily change all other interactions we have had with the party in question. Furthermore, what impact should it have on our life in general. There is a good book that said, “By their fruits they shall be known” or something like that. Yea, I think I may be onto something. I think you must look at consequences in order to judge illusions.
At some point we need to define illusion. It is probably different than we think given the context we are using it in. I will start by saying what it is not. It is not something you can hold, see, touch or smell. In fact, an illusion can only be known or judged by its effects. That is not completely true it can be felt. It can be many things, the picture you have for how things will be for your kids, your spouse, yourself. I had always considered myself appropriately cynical, I am a realist. I understood that most people underestimated the fact that things can get worse and do. I deal in facts and I am not given to fairy tale dreams. This was my illusion. We all have one, that is how we interact with the world. It forms what we see and understand. It creates our paradigm. Illusions are real, false illusions are our stumbling blocks to true understanding. False illusions are hard to avoid; if you are trained you can see the magician’s illusion; but at that moment it is no longer an illusion, only a cheap trick. Feeling you fell for a cheap trick is often how it feels when you are forced to face your own false illusion. It has happened to me more than once. What and how can you trust after such an event? Where is your foundation and how do you find your footing? Maybe you start by acknowledging that at your core there needs to be both an intellectual and an instinctual foundation. Your mind and your gut both contain truth and limitations.
I was talking to a friend a while back who’s mother was at the end, he asked me, “Did you know when your mom was going to die; that this is it, it is happening now?” My answer was yes, but I thought it was going to happen several times before. When it really did happen I knew it. We tend to recognize when something is really true, we often get fooled by false alarms or illusions beforehand. He smiled and said, then we know before the fact only after the fact. Gee thanks, I guess.” I laughed and replied, I know what you mean, but maybe that is why they say there is no substitute for experience.” He walked away and said, “fool me once”. That could have meant so many things I instantly forgot about it in favor of something that seems a little more straightforward. At times like this I wonder if I am still making sense to anyone but myself.
Let’s start by putting our focus on the difference between false and true illusions. A false illusion at its best can only be beneficial for a short time and is based on something that is untrue. It leads to negative consequences. Untrue in this case can manifest itself in three different ways, it can be something that can be proven untrue at the time, it can be based on an unrealistic interpretation of the facts or events, and finally, a failure to see the whole picture when it is clearly visible with just a little effort. A true illusion is productive and leads to positive consequences. It makes you a better person and gives you a clearer picture of yourself and the world around you.
This rather simplistic view is important because life gets in the way. To judge your relationships with people, ask how are they beneficial for both parties and how are they not. I will think and explore this in the future, but for now I have been crushed. It is weird how you can be writing about something and having real life come crushin in. One single revolution has shattered what is now obviously a false illusion. My first thought is did I survive cancer because I didn’t suffer enough. Of course this is not the reason, if there was no truth in the accusation there would not be the extent of devastation. I can say I now know what it is to be humbled. My last hope at self-respect has been taken. I should crumble, I want to hide, but if my humiliation can inspire anyone it is worth it. This must be a God thing because I have never thought this way. I will go on.