Friday, August 6, 2010


Many of the Eastern-based religions and philosophies use illusion as a rhetorical paring knife with which to strip away adornments and concepts not directly connected to the godhead.  Illusion is by most accounts a distortion, an appearance somewhat lacking or completely lacking in validity.  Optical illusions may, for one example, suggest--notice the verb there--the appearance of a thing advancing toward your point of vantage or retreating from it.

Illusion is some distortion of reality.  Many of the Hindu sects jump in on this point and adhere to the belief that there is only one reality--the godhead.  All else, they argue, is illusion or maya, even chuckling to themselves about a situation or circumstance that it is all maya.  The Taoists like to call illusion the Ten Thousand Things, of which they are at pains to remind you of the potentials they hold forth for duplicity and betrayal.  In other words, illusion becomes the object of suspicion.  You don't know any Hindu or Taoist agnostics or atheists although you do know a few adherents of Buddhist sects who claim the concept of godhead to be an illusion to be regarded with the same suspicion some Christians view Satan, working to distort the reality of the godhead.

You have come to be more interested in the illusion of writers and writing which has helped you develop an illusion of your own, an illusion of what Noam Chomsky must feel when he thinks about the ramifications of language and the incredible things that have been said about it by behaviorists and others who seek to categorize human activity and construct into neat one-size-fits all categories.

You are filled with admiration for Chomsky for having, in a single review of a major project by the behavioral psychologist, B.F. Skinner, pulled the rug from under that aspect of psychology, which is the still evolving study of how and why humans behave as they do.  Part of your admiration comes from the fact of Chomsky having attacked Skinner's top-heavy reliance on reenforcement as a key to behavior, but even more of your admiration comes from the more basic fact of Chomsky having pulled a rug from under a concept you consider tyrannical.  In fact you enjoy the power writing can provide to topple any such tyrannical behavior, which is of itself an illusion.  Thus your equation of using the illusions you create through writing to topple other illusions which you suggest through the means--if you are successful--of writing.

It is certainly an illusion to create in a few paragraphs a man, woman, or child who seem to emerge as actual reality to the point where you believe in them and others like you believe in them.  It is a staggering illusion to read the illusions of men and women who have lived out their entire lifespan before you were born and yet find entry into their illusion, which in turn arms and readies you to lead your daily twenty-first century life and, wonder of wonders, write about it.

The joys of sharing your illusions with others is in direct proportion to and highly motivated by the joys you have had while you had an entry visa into the terrains of other writers.  Some of these joys of which you write were in fact rather dark joys, grim joys, by no means joys that exalted you or served as letters of commendation for individuals such as, say, the recommendations you wrote for students wishing to pursue graduate studies.  They were in fact illusions of critique, of earnest and measured criticism of behavior and consequence, such as Chomsky critiqued when he wrote about B. F. Skinner.
And the best illusion of all to begin with is the illusion that is you.

Whatever strengths you now have, you once exercised to achieve; you stumbled in the process and were not your best self.  Whatever weaknesses you had, the memory of them remains in your muscles if not your heart and mind.  You are a walking argument, a walking best effort, hoping the stronger illusion is the better illusion and that it will prevail.  Top performers have lackluster performances.  Star athletes have bad days.  All writers are susceptible to illusion, cliche, false pride, and bitterness at the lack of recognition their skills receive.  All of us are vanity of vanities writ large and leaky ego an ongoing possibility.

We step to the computer screen or the note pad, a hybrid of hope and idea, seeking that opening sentence and the illusion that it is the right one, the one that brings forth from within the next sentence and the next.

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