Reality of Illusion or Illusion of Reality?

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,…

William Shakespeare
As You Like It – Act II Scene VII

When we go to a Play what exactly are we experiencing? The playhouse/theater is real, the audience is real, the performers are real. The performance itself is real. And yet it was actually no more than an illusion. The married couple is not really married, the lovers are not really in love, the murder victim was not really dead. All of the emotions portrayed by the actors are false. So then can we not conclude that a Play is a ‘real’ illusion?

When we watch an illusionists perform, what exactly are we watching? The slight of hand works. The impossible is demonstrated to be possible. The audience is amazed, mesmerized and confounded. The illusion is real…

So if illusions are real then reality can be an illusion. And if we consume enough illusion, or if the majority of what we consume is illusion, then… eventually, our reality is nothing but illusion. Hence, reality is illusion. And that is the ‘reality’ of the world we live in today. But it does not have to be.

It does beg the question eventually… what then is real? And does ‘real’ equate to ‘truth’? We know illusions are real. We know the purpose of an illusion is to disguise the truth. Therefor real ≠ truth. Therein lies the power of the illusion. Because I believe I can confidently say that the vast majority of people believe that real = truth. But we know that real can be an illusion. This is one way how humankind has become so deeply deceived.

Have you ever heard of actors who have fans come up and address them as their characters? The fan is unable or unwilling to separate the character from the actor. The illusion of the character is the fan’s reality. There are people that believe everything on TV is real. Whew… talk about some deep deep mind control. Of course we tend to think of these people as ‘needing help’ or ‘dumb’. I no longer do, they’re just very deep in the grand illusion. A whole lot of people, well educated and possibly considered smart or successful, believe the MSM news is truth. They are confusing ‘real’ for the ‘truth’. For them the ‘real illusion’ is the truth.

But even for the regular TV viewer who understands that the sitcom/drama they are watching is a simulation, the fact is they are constantly immersing themselves in illusion. They are becoming accustomed, acclimated, conditioned to illusion. So many forms of illusion on video, so many flavors. Soap Opera, comedies, Reality TV (some of the most ‘produced/directed’ content on TV), History (a long time purveyor of illusion), Wrestling (I suppose technically a conspiracy theory proved real), Nature (I speak in particular of when situations are ‘created’ to capture on camera), and of course the News (the master at mixing a modicum of truth with a healthy does of lies). By being exposed to so much illusion, especially that which is not recognized as illusion and therefor accepted as real, the individual comes to a point where they cannot distinguish between what is real, illusion, lie, truth, fake, or genuine.

Here are a few pictures of children watching TV, Donna Lee Stevens – Idiot Box. Please click on the link, there are a whole host of adjectives I’d like to use to describe what I see, but I want you to decide what you see when children watch the ‘Illusion Box’.

Video games serve the same function, except they allow us to participate in the illusion. Certainly a more powerful draw, much deeper level of immersion. In fact so much so that some neglect their real lives. I remember years ago a great deal of Internet chatter about this in regards to the MMORPG game called EverQuest (released in 1999), or EverCrack for the addicted. I suspect this was the first game that hit on the right ‘formula’ to create the addiction, which was certainly helpful for a monthly subscription service game. But addiction it was, and a destructive addiction for many. MMORPG’s are still very popular today, the 1st quarter of 2015 there were 7.1 million subscribers to Word of Warcraft alone, a game that’s 10 years old. But I never hear about MMORPG addiction anymore. Of course I never hear any chatter about smart phone addiction either. So I don’t know if it’s just become an accepted addiction, or the MMORPG developers have been able to pull it back so it’s not a destructive addiction. Regardless, I know that MMORPG’s are amazing time eaters, so much time playing in an illusion.

Why is illusion so powerful? It seems logical to me that something genuine and truthful should be more powerful than something fake and dishonest. And yet it seems to be the reverse. The power of the illusion comes from the manipulation of a person’s belief. If the person buys the illusion, then they believe it. And belief is a very powerful force. The placebo affect.

Regardless of what we see or hear, what is very interesting is our emotional response is real. That bears repeating. Regardless of what we see or hear, whether it is genuine, whether or not we know it is an illusion, our emotional response is very real. This emotional response is what powers our belief, it is what gives life to the illusion. The illusion is fake but the emotional response is real, and it is this genuine response which gives validity to the illusion, it is the foundation of the belief. The emotional response is real, therefor the event whether genuine or an illusion, becomes real. And hence the belief is real.

This is major reason why many people are unable to accept the truth when an illusion is revealed. Once a person has chosen to believe something, it is difficult to change that belief. It is also why it can be so traumatic, painful, distressing for those who do change their beliefs based on evidence of illusion. Because that belief is based on a very real emotional response. It is this confrontation of an individual’s real emotional response to an event and evidence of said event being an illusion that is difficult. Whether this happens at conscious or subconscious level. It is as if one, or some, cannot accept that an illusion could create real emotions. The stronger the emotional response, the stronger the belief, the more difficult it is accept the truth that an event was an illusion. We have to ‘overcome’ our emotions to dis-spell the illusion.

The Reality of Illusion or the Illusion of Reality?

Both. For illusions are very real, and reality can and is built with illusions.

“The Grand Illusion”

Welcome to the Grand illusion
Come on in and see what’s happening
Pay the price, get your tickets for the show
The stage is set, the band starts playing
Suddenly your heart is pounding
Wishing secretly you were a star.

But don’t be fooled by the radio
The TV or the magazines
They show you photographs of how your life should be
But they’re just someone else’s fantasy
So if you think your life is complete confusion
Because you never win the game
Just remember that it’s a Grand illusion
And deep inside we’re all the same.
We’re all the same…

So if you think your life is complete confusion
Because your neighbors got it made
Just remember that it’s a Grand illusion
And deep inside we’re all the same.
We’re all the same…

America spells competition, join us in our blind ambition
Get yourself a brand new motor car
Someday soon we’ll stop to ponder what on Earth’s this spell we’re under
We made the grade and still we wonder who the hell we are

Styx, ‘The Grand Illusion’ (1977)


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