Monday, January 18, 2010
Illusions and the damage they do
What is the difference between an illusion and imagination? One seems to me positive (imagination) and can lead to finding new ways to do things. The other (illusion) leads us to believe certain things are true which are not. Illusions are when we make assumptions based on false premises. I think we live in a culture that is full of illusions many of which are intended to sell products. The entertainment media makes a lot of money from creating and promulgating illusions. If those illusions suit our presupposed ideas, we approve of them, if not, we think they are bad for the world.
One example is what we think about getting old. The illusion is we can avoid it with surgery, positive thinking, or pills. Whatever we do, whatever we look like, aging is a fact of life. Nobody has yet beat it. We can dye that gray hair, get a face lift, but it won't change what is under it. Illusions are always about the superficial-- the quick and easy fix.
Some would say it's not bad to sell ourselves on the illusion we are as young as we think or we can stay young if we do this or that. I actually think it is bad. One reason is we are fooling ourselves which can lead to tricking ourselves in other areas. We might tell others how youthful we are but generally others see the truth.
The other problem with the I'm-not-really-aging illusion is that we miss out on the experience that we could have been having in the winter of our life. Growing old, watching our body grow old, having a pet grow old, these are life experiences. Why not live them positively and fully? Experience the sensations, the changes and find it exciting and actually just part of the mystery of life. Some of those experiences are not much fun but they are ours.
One of the things I learned early in life is to live the moment I am in. I try very hard not to anticipate or put off something with the idea it will be better in the future. Reality is that we only have the moment. If we throw it away on wishful thinking, wanting to be living a different moment, we may not even have it.
Trying to hold onto youth and the experiences of youth are to miss those of old age. We can miss real experiences at any age as with the parent who wishes their child older or even themselves when they want to be old enough for this or that special privilege.
Considering the sometimes subtle damage they do, I have been thinking about some popular illusions in our culture. Some come from a ways back but are impacting today. Staying true to my intent to avoid politics, the next six blogs won't be about this group or that being superior in how they deal with these illusions. It will just be looking at what illusions might be impacting our lives, asking if they make sense for today. If you come up with some I haven't thought of, be sure and add them to the mix. Feel free to disagree with me but please keep this off political agendas and stick to the issues raised.