I’m reading a book entitled Empire of Illusion:The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle. The author, Chris Hedges, talks about the illusions of love (he focuses on the porn industry), wisdom (elitism in education), happiness and above-all America (the context of his study). I argue we are in the trap of the illusion of everything… everything we perceive we need, are, have to be, is our greatest illusion.

We fall so easily into traps of thinking “I must have/be/do x, so that I am worthy in society and that I give other people what they want or I ‘fulfill my potential'”… but how often do we ask ourselves, what do I want to do today. What do I really like to do? How do I want to feel? And how often do we give ourselves time to answer, or recognise our own voices? These voices become quiet and stunted from lack of use, falling into dumbness, because they are tired of not being recognised.

It’s so easy to draw up lists and schedules, goals and desires. The Secret and the Law of Attraction tell (sell) us that if we only want something hard enough, it will happen, or that if something is not happening, then we are blocking it with our negative thoughts… but what about getting off your arse and working for it? What about the fact that shit happens, often, that is out of our control? Does a child starving in rural Mununu* deserve being orphaned by AIDS? Because he or she thought negative thoughts?

Illusions…. we surround ourselves with the right people, the right clothes, live in the right places, but what does it matter? If you scratch any of these facades, you start to see that the veneer of the perfect smile is just that, a veneer. Most people need an internal, not an external make-over, but if you are not brave enough, then how do you even know where to start?

I spent four days in a place that is all about illusions, and yet there is something so blatantly honest about Las Vegas. It sits there and says, “Hey, I’m a gaudy flirt and if you don’t like it, go somewhere else. I know who I am. Who are you?” Hedges actually talks about Vegas in his book, and sums up some of my thoughts about it, especially about how Americans can experience “Europe” and still have a hamburger while doing it, without all those pesky Europeans and their “exotic” food and languages getting in the way, or having to get a passport. You have to be pretty blinkered to think that you aren’t in a place that exists solely for entertainment’s sake while wandering its streets, because the message is pretty clear, and really in your face.

The question becomes, do you enjoy your illusions? Or do you want to look deeper? Do you allow yourself to be free of the expectations you have built for yourself, and that others have built for you? Do you want to go backstage in the magic show and find out how it all works without being totally disappointed?

Food for thought.

PS – on a less academic note, one thing that is really annoying me about the book is that he keeps saying “reflect back”…

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