Living Without Our Illusions

January 22, 2012 § 4 Comments

Many of us live most of our lives feeling feel fairly certain of who we are as people. We feel comfortable with the image we have of ourselves, leading us to feel comfortable with most of our choices.  Unfortunately, the aspects of ourselves that we tend to feel the most certain of are all of our perceived “holes” or imperfections. We believe, with great certainty, that these imperfections strongly limit what we can do with our lives and who we are able to be.  We may feel certain that we do not look quite right, that we are not quite smart enough, or that we do not have the right personality to do what we want to accomplish or become. We are convinced of things that simply are not true.

We are certain of our illusions.

The paradox is that one day when we are older and more tired, when we have hit the proverbial brick wall, many of us finally recognize the fallacy of so many things we have believed about ourselves; illusions we have harbored with an almost religious faith. We finally figure out, much too late, that much of what we believed was untrue.

And that moment of realization is truly unpleasant. Too tired to fight back, we must look at our purported illusions of inadequacy and realize they did not exist. One day, we look back at the photographs and realize we got it all wrong. There really was nothing wrong with the way we looked. We weren’t really too fat or too thin; we actually looked pretty good. We realize we were never stupid; we just never even tried. We see clearly that there was nothing wrong with our style; we were just being who we are.

We come to see that we had illusions about others as well. We realize our kid wasn’t inadequate because he failed to pass calculus, and our spouse was never the flawed soul we had imagined. Uncle George, who managed to ruin every holiday party, was never really a bad guy, just a troubled soul who warranted compassion. They were all illusions, created by expectations of what should have been, what should have happened, and what others should have done.

If you haven’t gotten there, I assure you that you will.

Even if you find the basic facts to be true, you are still likely to discover a different kind of illusion. One day you will awaken to see that even the facts never warranted the conclusions you drew from them. Yes, you may have been overweight or too thin, too tall or too short, or you may have had too little hair. Yes, your grades may not have been not quite as good as you wished, or your promotions as frequent as you had liked. You may not have had as much money as you needed. One day, you may be certain that objectively, the facts were true. But you will come to see that the real illusion was that they were the cause of your unhappiness. These facts were not the reason for your lack of joy. These things never led you to a life of anxiety and dissatisfaction.  One day you awaken and see others living in the same objective circumstances, yet you notice that they are happy nonetheless. That is when you will know: it was not the facts that stopped you, but the illusion that the facts were the cause of your unhappiness; the illusion that your life had to turn out a certain way because of the facts.

What would happen if you stopped living your illusions?

  1. You would stop getting in your own way. You would begin to relinquish your self-imposed limits, and instead let your reality begin to reveal itself.  You could begin learning the real parameters of who you are and are not; beginning to live as you were meant to live, not as you have deluded yourself into living.
  2. You would focus away from ideas that get you nowhere and move toward ideas that can change your life. You cannot build anything on a foundation that isn’t true.  But when you build your life upon what truly exists, you have the opportunity to build something real, and experience the tremendous wonder that it brings.
  3. You would live more profoundly, more deeply, apart from all the surface inclinations that are taught by our culture. It tells you to be this or that, but when you live apart from the illusions, you begin to understand that these illusions never needed to be yours. You start to look for what is real in you, not for what they want you to pretend to see.
  4. You would allow the Universe to do its work. When you admit that you don’t know everything, you place your life in the hands of something bigger, something that knows better. Call it God. Call it a force. Call it whatever you prefer, but trust that it will always reveal the truth.
  5. You would have a chance to discover the happiness you deserve. Without the illusions, you are better able to follow the course of your destiny. Will it be a perfect journey?  There are no guarantees.  What I can guarantee is that setting a course based on an illusory GPS gets you nowhere. You receive no direction, no gauge of progress, and no knowledge of your target destination. You are simply traveling haphazardly, without any guidance.

It is time for us to wave the illusions and their influence goodbye.  Start today.  Begin questioning the “facts” about yourself and others that you have always viewed as absolute truth. Look for different evidence that leads you to different conclusions. Refuse to accept the illusions. Look for others who possess similar traits, similar “holes,” and find those that weren’t limited by their reality. Resolve to stop buying into the illusions, simply because you have always have.

You are so much more than you believe, so much more capable and worthy than you ever imagined.  Resolve today to discard the illusions, and discover a new ability to change your life.

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A Society of Elvis Impersonators

January 7, 2012 § 9 Comments

I have always found Elvis impersonators somewhat disconcerting. While I have always had a fondness for the King, I’ve never understood what satisfaction could be drawn from transforming, on a daily basis, into someone other than who you really are. What confused me more was the strange allure that these impersonators seem to have for others.

Upon further reflection, however, I think I am beginning to understand. We live in a society where the bulk of our citizenry live their lives pretending to be something they are not; aspiring to emulate the “kings” of society, i.e. the rich, famous, and powerful.  Sadly, this deceptive way of life is, quite simply, a grand stage show that has gradually overtaken our country. People of relatively modest means are now boasting homes that heretofore had been the abodes of the affluent. Lawns in suburban neighborhoods are now meant to emulate the gardens of large estates. With the additions of designer clothing, unaffordable automobiles, expensive vacations, and fine dining, what we have is a citizenry that impersonates kings—all done on credit, of course.

In the true form of Elvis impersonators, we are not truly impersonating the kings of our society. Much as the Elvis impersonators rarely impersonate the drug-addicted, fat, dysfunctional version of the King, we tend to emulate the stage presences of our own social kings without the flaws, the personal dramas and struggles they may have faced, or the ethical shortcuts they may have taken; essentially, without an understanding of those elements that make them fallible, yet real human beings. We effect this impersonation after viewing their lives from our own very narrow telephoto lens. As a result, despite our best efforts, our impersonation is never really quite accurate.

We train our children to be impersonators as well, injecting them into activities that are designed to help them emulate these self created models of wealth, power, and prestige. We delude ourselves into believing that we are enabling them to develop their talents and life skills, but what we are actually doing is teaching them to imitate the behaviors that we believe will elevate them to royal status. In the process, we risk masking the unique talents and abilities that our “commoner” children may actually possess.  Most troubling is that we dub this impersonation The American Dream, and identify ourselves with the aspiration to live our lives defined by a culture of copycat kings.

But America was never meant to be defined by counterfeit lives. The American dream was never about emulating someone else’s life. It was never about allowing snapshots of other people’s lives to define our personal and cultural aspirations. It had long been about following our own personal dreams, finding a place where we could define ourselves, and creating a better life for our children. These days, that life can simply be found and photocopied directly from our high definition televisions, where skilled manipulators provide us with the blueprints for our dreams.

As a society of veritable Elvis impersonators, we can no longer remember who we are; choosing instead to live a faux life defined by our synthetic appearance and inherited aspirations. We have become a society of fakes, so intent on emulating the kings that we cannot even figure out who we are. Of all that this new American dream has wrought, that is the most troubling.

With each individual who succumbed to mimicry, a bit of talent and soul escaped us as their talent and creativity were squandered. In the aggregate, we lost much of the character of our nation by creating a faux reality. We lost artists and poets who became television personalities in order to achieve fame. We lost healers and teachers who became executives in order to achieve wealth. We lost journalists, clergymen, historians, philosophers and intellectuals, all in an effort to achieve the money, power, and status of the social kings. We ignored our own innate talents, abilities, and inclinations in our attempt to live someone else’s life.

We lost what makes a society rich, varied, and great.

Undoubtedly, some impersonators have been enriched by their mimicry. Some have indeed become social kings; trapped  by success, and floundering to understand their unhappiness. Much like the Elvis impersonators, each leaves behind only the vestiges of their parody:  the black bouffant hairstyle, bushy sideburns, and garish sequined clothing that defined them. They leave behind their version of Graceland, and an emptiness that defines the vapid spoils of living a charade. For those never crowned, there is no royal history, for they were never kings. Their gravestones mark a fictitious identity and claim that they were once alive, but few ever knew who they really were since their core never came to life. Few people ever learn the true names and identities of Elvis impersonators.

In the end, the culture is left with an eerie silence; a feeling that something inexplicable was lost. It is something that no one will ever be able trace or recapture.

It is an American nightmare.

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