Magic and illusions. Illusions and magic. It all falls into place now.
When we are young, we believe that our parents, or even all adults, have all the answers. Hell, we even believe there are “right” answers – to every question. How do they know everything? Why, to our little minds, it’s like magic. When this illusion fails, it may sometimes be traumatic, but it is also freeing, because it gives you a voice in the cacophony of voices that previously disregarded yours.
When we grow a little older, our illusions change and mostly appear to focus on that old siren – young love. There really is something magical about this illusion. You’re too young to know anything, so the idea that you could know anything about yourself, let alone another person, is ridiculous. But that’s what makes young love so magical – It. Is. Whatever. You. Imagine. It. To. Be. You don’t love that person. You love whatever perfect illusion you’ve created and stapled to a real person’s face. Ultimately, when the illusion shatters, either by their rejection of your stapling or by your finally seeing the dissonance between the image and the reality, the breaking of the spell is typically a harsh lesson. (As an aside, some people never seem to get the memo.)
As you get even older, you think you’re getting wiser. Parents and lovers take more realistic places in your life. You become more balanced, with the perspective that comes with experience able to mellow out the drama from your youth. Yet, illusions continue. Friends, acquaintances, bosses, colleagues, kids, even culture* continue to foist their preferred images of us onto us. And, in return, we project our desired illusions onto them. All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women are not merely players, they are also directors, producers, cinematographers and, most importantly, special effects artists. You and your circle, walking hand in hand to whatever mirage has been jointly, subconsciously agreed to.
Did you ever stop to think how fucked up that is? The height of evolution (or God’s creation, whatever your priors) is self-awareness, and the immediate reaction of the self-aware? COVER THAT SHIT UP!! All the sturm-und-drang to get here, and we can’t get away from it fast enough. Instead of taking in the world as it is, the self-aware largely change the world to be what they want it to be by simply perceiving it the way they want it to be. It’s magic.
But you know what? There is no magic. That has been the most soul-wrenching lesson of my life. Imagine having something magical ripped from you and held in front of you, stripped of all properties that made it extraordinary – your parents, suddenly just ordinary people doing their best to keep it together amidst the stress of their own lives, completely unable to understand how their weaknesses will transmit to their children; your perfect lover, suddenly just an ordinary person that can’t hold a candle to the picture of romance or coolness or whatever-ness that you had stapled to her face; your career, suddenly full of ordinary tasks coordinated with ordinary colleagues; your friends, suddenly living an ordinary life not unlike your own notwithstanding starting something they are passionate about in an exotic location; your kids, suddenly just ordinary people, devoid of any of the cuteness of their early years that bonded you to them as if they were the most important, most interesting people in the world. A world suddenly without magic is a terrifying place.
Stripped bare, magic is just an illusion, a self-imposed mis-direction of your self-awareness. But I think I’m ready to forego the illusions.
*At a cultural scale, it’s a wonderful magic trick – controlling millions of people with nothing but an illusion. Depending on your alignment, this realization can be comforting or nauseating.