Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Illusion vs. Reality

I thought that I would do something different today, and write a bit about something that has been on my mind for some time and ask for your comments and responses. Feel free to use it as a visual journal prompt and share your responses on the Flickr site.

Here lately, I've been concerned with illusion and reality - not the magician on a stage kind, but a personal kind. I've thought so much recently about who we truly are and how we are perceived by others - or how we allow others to perceive us - how we put on masks and play certain roles in certain situations. It's amazing how disparate our inner selves and our outer selves can be. There are parts we hide - out of fear, out of protection, out of necessity, out of habit. Haven't we all forced a smile on our faces when we would rather yell, scream, or cry?

We build illusions both for ourselves and for others. Have we not built great fantasies in our heads about certain people - idealizing them and building them up? Have we not built illusions about ourselves to put on a front so that people cannot see the real us? Have we not kept ourselves disconnected from the world because we were afraid that someone might glimpse the real us?

But we are all human - connected by the experiences that all humans experience - yet fear, greed, lust, aggression, and ego get in the way of those connections. We see people and make instant judgements about them based on the way they look or act, based on the things they say or how they say it, or based on our own prejudices. Our judgements are shallow. In our haste we see only the paper thin shells - an illusion that we place on these people. Yet reality may be so different, but we stick to our snap judgements and pass on by - we take what we want from them and leave them.

Illusions are a way to use people, manipulate them, disregard them, categorize them. Masks are all they are - no deeper - no more complex. And so we do not need to do the work of understanding, knowing, and empathizing. We can go on. We never see the soul. We will never touch a life in this way. We will never make a difference in this world because we can not get beyond the illusions that we all make.

Reality can be ugly and dirty and dark. Yet it can be beautiful and spiritual and bright. We have the power to affect and be affected by the world if we just let it. We all have the need to know how we have changed the world. Unfortunately, too many of us never get the chance because we are trapped within ourselves and we are trapped in the roles that we play. The real human heart beats within all of us. We turn away from the pain. We look for happiness in the illusions we create. We get away from our authentic selves because it is too painful, too vulnerable, too much to bear.

If we cannot embrace our own complexities - our own hearts, we cannot embrace another's. We will always be alone. We are all here on planet Earth reaching out for love, for compassion, for acceptance, for connection. That is what unites us.

Can we pull away the mask, celebrate our authentic selves, and connect with humanity? If we can, we can change the world.

I could go on, but I'll just put my mask back on and step back into my role, but before I do, I would ask for comments and responses. Please leave your comments here and post your visual journal responses to the Flickr Site.


steve said...

Deep, thoughtful post Eric. I think we are all guilty to this, even those who realize this the most, though "prone" might be a better substitute for the word "guilty". I think for many people, it's simply easier to ignore the core of things and to happily, blindly accept things at surface value. I know the Shrek reference to everyone having "layers like an onion" is overused, but it's very true. I wonder though, is this a result of our society--the constant distractions and emphasis on work and entertainment and money--things that sap us from our ability and desire, even, to "keep it real", with ourselves and others. I think about this with blogging, and bloggers. How different are we from the illusion we project online? I think it's both a good and a bad thing for us humans to have the ability and intelligence to "use our illusions"--to put on those masks. I don't know, I could go on forever but I've got kiddies coming to mty classroom right now. Some other time then. Again, great,thoughtful post!

Eric said...

I've been reading a book by the Dalai Lama entitled, How to See Yourself as You Really Are, and he confronts this idea. He simply states that these illusions - these appearances that we accept as real lead to lust, anger, greed, and a whole lot of other bad things. If we cannot truly see someone or something for how they or it truly exists, we can cause ourselves a lot of problems. When we deny our authentic selves and we deny the authentic selves of others, does it not become more difficult to really be happy - to really connect with the world? I think slapping on the forced smile and making it through the day may be more convenient, but then aren't we truly alone??? In this world that is ever shrinking and ever progressing in technology, I think, we are growing more and more devoid of true connections.

steve said...

Good point, and I think we as humans have always, at least for a good portion of our time here on Earth, confused things like love and lust as the same thing, though, in many ways, these very things are biologically connected and intertwined. But that's just a small part of it. There are obvious pros and cons to the new power we have obtained through using any kind of technology and the question is, how do we use it? What do we do with this ever evolving power that is technology? I for one an an optimist, or see the glass as half full. Take Blogger or Flickr, two essentially free web hosts that allow human beings to communicate and interact in ways we could have only imagined in our wildest dreams only a couple of decades ago. The fact that I can see art and listen to music from others from all over the globe, and on top of that communicate with them and, if I choose to, build deeper connections with them is astounding! People are meeting each other online instead of in bars these days, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Those people could very well be having much deeper conversations through the internet rather than at the local pub, where plenty of folks wear "masks", or beer goggles for that matter. I do see a big problem where people lose themselves for endless hours in virtual realms such as Second Life and the like. Just like any technology, it can be a wonderful or a horrible thing, depending on how one decides to use it. This new technology is forcing us to confront questions pertaining to what is "real" or "authentic" and A healthy dose of skepticism is never a bad thing. In the meantime I'd like to check out that book sometime.

Anonymous said...

Thats a wonderful message Eric and the comments of Steven are very thoughtful.

I beleive its fear that hides our true self beneath the layer of lust, worry, doubt, fear and so on. And yes, society plays a major role - on the outset we all want to be loved, appreciated and acknowledged. More often when we express our authentic self, we are subjected to questions and retribution. Fear of being judged, fear of being rejected, fear of being left alone and other such versions of fear stop us from expressing our true identity. Deep within we all have a wonderful and amazing self - love - that seeks expression in this world. In choosing illusion, we deny our right to live and let live. The choice is ours - either to choose illusion or reality? Yet we need to create supportive environments. I believe it is the responsbility of people like you to open such plarforms for people to express themselves. Keep up,