Friday, July 26, 2013

My Favorite Illusions: A Guest Blog by Mark Shapiro

Romance is probably one of the most popular illusions of mankind. It’s a hit in just about every culture. A song about love found or love lost never needs translation. Even an advertisement about a man and his horse brings tears to my eyes. How can anyone resist the tug at heartstrings as Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn find happiness in each other in “Woman of the Year”? Or, if you’re younger, when Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan come together in “When Harry met Sally”? Or, if you’re younger still, movies like “500 Days of Summer” unfailingly evoke poignant feelings. It’s all the same; the belief that happiness (or misery) can be found in the outer world, and in the case of happiness, that it can last forever.

Free will is another very popular illusion, especially in the Western world. This often cherished notion says that we have the ability to make changes in our lives (for better or for worse) and that this attribute directly counters its opposite, Fate. Both free will and fate, as they are thought of in the Western world, are sub-sets of romance. Both are illusions. How dearly do we want to believe that we have the control to make the world we live in (or ourselves) better? Or, if we believe in fate, how easy life’s decisions are when all is pre-ordained? But what happens if those beliefs are dropped? Who drops them and how is it decided that they should be dropped? Typically, we move between the two extremes, never finding the comfort they promise.

There is a cost to every illusion and,  more often than not, the cost goes unnoticed. It is this dynamic that keeps illusions on the playing field. If I believe that I’m a good person, and yet I do cruel things to others, I will eventually find myself being avoided by those people or  treated poorly in return.  I then will feel victimized by the same ones I’ve hurt, all the while thinking I’m the good one. If I’m unwilling to consider that I’m not as good as I thought, the pattern continues. There is a desire to not look at illusory beliefs, for doing so may upset the delicate balance of the ego mind. And it is the ego mind that clings to illusions.

The ego is a set of beliefs of who and what we are. Typically, we hold on to those beliefs because they seem to offer comfort and security on one side, and guilt on the other side with the fear of losing a sense of one's self. Sounds like a pretty good thing, doesn’t it? And it would be…if it worked. Egos are like projectors; they cast an image we can relate to. The reason it doesn’t work, at least in a lasting way, is because it requires a lot of energy to maintain the illusory self-image, and sooner or later, energy runs low. When the power supply is low, or the power requirements are high (as in a crisis), the image on the screen dims. It is at these moments when we are most capable of looking at the cost of an illusion. More commonly, we become depressed with lost hope.

Hope is the kingpin of any belief. A belief is like a connector between past and future, and hope is the tool that attaches the connector. Hope is more like an attitude than a feeling, and attitudes are one of the few things that we can change. Correspondingly, change happens with a shift in our perspective. Attitudes are investments in the future. Hope is the enticement. All investments have their costs. If the investment pays out, we succeed; if it tanks, we fail.

photo credit:
About Mark Shapiro: Mark was born in Los Angeles in 1948. He lived in California until he moved to Hawaii in 1991, where he currently resides. What happened during this time is of no consequence; the events are only stories. 

When Mark was 8 years old, he liked watching old movies. At 65, he still likes watching old movies. On his 12th birthday, he surfed for the first time. At 13, he learned to play the tuba, which he enjoyed. He no longer plays the tuba but continues to surf. 

Mark was never fond of going to school, until he went to college, where learning was fun. He was one class short of earning his degree in Radio, Television, and Film, but didn’t care because he was working in Public Television. One of the programs he produced was about car repair. He later left television and went back to school to learn auto repair. He set up a business to help people learn about automobile maintenance and diagnosis.

In 1988 he retired because of health issues. He currently drives a 1990 Toyota Corolla Wagon with a 5-speed transmission. It’s the best car he has ever owned. 

- Ariel Murphy


  1. What a rich banquet of thought! Much to ponder...much to consider. Thanks for sharing!