Archives for posts with tag: illusion

Yesterday you’ve been babbling about painting an elephant. One which was already present in the room. Doesn’t make that much sense, does it?

In my childhood there was a certain emperor. Who had been duped by a couple of crooks to wear a suit of clothes so special that they were in fact invisible. Hence the emperor walked around naked, convinced he was wearing the coolest set of rags available on this Earth. Pun intended, of course. I forgot to mention the price. Not only hefty but also recurrent. Each set of clothes, of in-existent clothes, could be worn only once. They were too fragile for ‘second helpings’. The courtiers kept congratulating the emperor for his beautiful attire so the scam went on for quite a while. Until he took to the streets of his capital city to show off his clothes to the ordinary people. And a child exclaimed: “Look. the emperor is naked”. And those present started to laugh.

Same thing here. Everybody senses that something’s amiss. Except for those who should know better. Who, for various reasons – I’ll get there, soon enough, don’t believe what they see. Or, more exactly, refuse to ‘go to the bottom of it’.

Back in the ‘good old days’, emperors had jesters. Courtiers who were allowed to speak the uncomfortable truth. Cloaked under a thick layer of funny words, true, but well worth saying.
This is what I mean when I ‘babble’ about ‘painting the elephant’.

I’ve already mentioned the story about the naked emperor. Now it’s time for that about the four blind men being led to learn about the elephant. One got to feel the hind legs, one the huge belly, the third got acquainted with the ears and the last with the tip of the elephant’s trunk. When later asked to share what they had learned, the first said the elephant was a pair of tall columns, the second said the elephant was a huge barrel, the third contradicted the first two maintaining that the elephant was a leathery curtain of sorts while the last was convinced that the elephant was a thick snake ending with a finger.

As I said before, ‘same thing here’. For ideological reasons, we consider some things and disconsider others. Furthermore, for psychological reasons, we tend to coalesce into ‘bubbles’. Those who consider the same things tend to stick together. And to disconsider those who consider other things.

I’m afraid this is too hard for me to follow. You first want to paint an elephant, then come up with a naked emperor and end up with parts of an elephant. Is there any elephant at all? Or all we have is a collection of disparate impressions? Man made illusions, vaguely resembling parts of an elephant and involving nakedness?

Well, you got the gist of it but you’re afraid to say it out loud.
The elephant is indeed of our own making.
An image. Not an illusion, mind you! Just an incomplete image of what’s going on around us.
Let me try to spell it differently.

The world was complicated to start with. Both wide and deep. Too wide and too deep for any of us to be able to comprehend it in earnest. But for most of our history, we didn’t have to. We used to live ‘locally’. Both geographically and ‘spiritually’. Each of us, individual human beings, belonged to a place. To a village and to a tradition. When one of us happened to move to another village, they, more or less naturally, translated their ‘spirit’ into the local tradition.
Nowadays, the world has become even more complicated. We made it even more complicated than it was at the beginning. We uncovered many of the previously unknown nooks and crannies. Building the illusion of knowledge in the process. Then we assumed tradition. Called it culture and made it our own. Took it with us where ever we went. Shared it with others and, sometimes, even imposed it – or parts of it, upon others.

The world itself is no longer straightforward. For us…
Our ancestors didn’t make any distinction between the physical world and the tradition which made sense of it. The world – ‘Cosmos’, as they used to call it, was whole. ‘Reality’ was made of ‘objects’, the names of those objects and the rules between them. The point being that our ancestors did not make any difference between an object, its name and its place in the order of things. Between the physical reality and tradition. Between the objects per se and the meaning – name and connecting ties, we’ve attached to each object.
Only after the Ancient Greeks had come up with the concept of “phusis” things were separated into natural and man-made. Into real and illusory…

That being the moment when the elephant had been born.
When we have started to steer our fate. Not to determine it – we’ll probably never be able to do this in a comprehensive manner, but to influence it.
Which influence has two dimensions. Size and … there’s no words for what I have to say right now. ‘Awareness of what’s going on’?!? Our ancestors did what they used to do because they had to do it and they did it as things were done at that time. We, on the other hand, get to choose among the many things which should be done and the manner in which we see fit to do it. Meanwhile, we entertain the illusion of doing all these things in a fully conscious manner.

A part of the elephant I have in mind consists of the fact that our consciousness is limited. But our illusion about our consciousness is bigger than the reality of the matter.
Another part of the elephant consists of the fact that more and more of us no longer consider advice. From those who entertain different opinions (illusions?!?) than us.

And why should I accept advice from somebody who promotes illusions?

I didn’t say you should accept advice from a peddler of illusions. From a con artist or from a snake-oil distributor.
What I said was ‘be careful, your own convictions are nothing but, ultimately, illusions. Man made illusions. Some of them, maybe, closer to reality than those entertained by other people. Meanwhile, others of your illusory convictions – most of them, probably, are more distanced from reality than those entertained by those who ‘control’/master each particular realm of ‘knowledge’.
This being the reason for which we go first to the doctor instead of raiding a pharmacy when our child gets sick.

I didn’t say you should accept advice from any peddler of illusions.
All I said was that we should pay more attention to what other people have to say. More considerate attention to what other people say, bearing in mind that our own convictions – about anything, are nothing but ultimately illusory.


“”We have not merely stumbled upon truth in spite of error and illusion, which is odd, but because of error and illusion, which is even odder.” Balfour”, courtesy of Philip F. Crenshaw who shared this on his Facebook wall.

“The good thing is that after only god knows how many times we have stumbled upon a truthful thing, we finally recognized it for what it was: a gem lying in mud for us to pick it up!” Me

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