Quote of the Day: Transcending our Illusions

 

“We suffer primarily not from our vices or our weaknesses, but from our illusions. We are haunted, not by reality, but by those images we have put in their place.” — Daniel Boorstin

Trying to get an honest perspective on our lives can be a most difficult venture. You’ll notice that I didn’t call for our seeing reality clearly; every single person’s reality is unique to himself/herself. In fact, I’d argue that there is no objective reality, at least not one that we can perceive and agree upon.

Instead of understanding that elusive reality, we could be working to make the world a better place; but we spend a great deal of our time focused inward, trying to perfect ourselves, freeing ourselves from our “vices or our weaknesses.” Frankly, my vices are fairly harmless; a glass of wine with dinner or a chocolate chip cookie afterward. And I rarely focus on my weaknesses (at least that I’m aware of), because they are just as innocuous at this point in my life.

But I do appreciate the challenge of trying to break through my own illusions that I hold about my life.

We can spend a great deal of time convincing ourselves of the “truth” of things—whether or not the CoVID-19 is more or less serious than flu; whether modern Islam is deadly or safe, or to what degree; whether or not certain foods are harmless or dangerous. The list goes on.

Instead, we can be curious investigators. We can seek to understand a question in many situations rather than come to an immutable conclusion. We can clarify our perceptions and what we believe, rather than only looking for the data that will make us “right.”

We can try to remain open and flexible about the way we comprehend the world, while at the same time holding firmly (but not with an iron grip) to those ideas and beliefs that guide us. We will understand life and ourselves much better, and we will suffer much, much less when we give up, or transcend, our illusions.

Then we will live in truth, while we continue to grow and learn.

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  1. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    But also keep in mind that illusions can be protective. It is always a bit of a dance in dealing with other people as to what to let them believe, unchallenged. If what they believe does them more harm than good, then challenging the illusion is necessary and important. But if it is something , albeit a crutch, that maintains their sense of well-being and does not harm them, then let it be. No one enjoys their illusions torn away by a person who simply insists that “we live in reality”. A little unreality seems to be a necessary aspect of a happy life. So much so that when people cling to their illusions we call them “delusional”. And we all know how many people that is.

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Rodin (View Comment):

    But also keep in mind that illusions can be protective. It is always a bit of a dance in dealing with other people as to what to let them believe, unchallenged. If what they believe does them more harm than good, then challenging the illusion is necessary and important. But if it is something , albeit a crutch, that maintains their sense of well-being and does not harm them, then let it be. No one enjoys their illusions torn away by a person who simply insists that “we live in reality”. A little unreality seems to be a necessary aspect of a happy life. So much so that when people cling to their illusions we call them “delusional”. And we all know how many people that is.

    I agree, @rodin.We can never be rid of all our illusions, and I might go so far to say that it’s not our jobs to strip others of their illusions just because we don’t like them or agree with them. The focus should be on ourselves. The radical Left lives almost entirely (at least politically) through illusions, but they either don’t know it, don’t care, or worse yet, expect us to accept them! My main point is for us to focus on our own lives; that’ll give us plenty to do! Thanks.

    • #2
  3. Vectorman Inactive
    Vectorman
    @Vectorman

    Susan Quinn: Instead, we can be curious investigators. We can seek to understand a question in many situations rather than come to an immutable conclusion. We can clarify our perceptions and what we believe, rather than only looking for the data that will make us “right.”

    In many ways, this concept helps improve the future. Science requires multiple observations to confirm basic theories. When observations show differences, the theories need to be changed or limited, as in Newtonian vs. Modern physics. Likewise for innovations and inventions, this leads to “why hasn’t this been done before?”


    Join other Ricochet members by submitting a Quote of the Day post, the easiest way to start a fun conversation. There are many open days on the March Signup Sheet. We even include tips for finding great quotes, so choose your favorite quote and sign up today!  

    • #3
  4. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    I find this interesting coming from a historian, whose job, I think, is to separate reality from illusion.  Perhaps, in doing so, that’s where he got the idea.

    • #4
  5. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    I find this interesting coming from a historian, whose job, I think, is to separate reality from illusion. Perhaps, in doing so, that’s where he got the idea.

    That is an intriguing thought, @hoyacon. I’d love to know if his work played a role.

    I liked the quote in part because it connects to my Buddhist past. One of the concepts I kept is that for the most part we create our own reality. We are sure we are right, that what we believe is true. In fact, many of our conflicts come from the need to “be right” or “look good,” the latter referring to however we want to be seen–looking good can be looking smart, insightful, wise, clever, creative. We will sacrifice many things to fool ourselves and others about who we are. Or we can transcend those allusions and try to know the person we really are!

    • #5
  6. Mike Rapkoch Moderator
    Mike Rapkoch
    @MikeRapkoch

    I’m having trouble following the logic here. If there is no “objective reality” how can we “will live in truth” if there is no objective truth against which we can compare our own thoughts and conclusions? How do we overcome out illusions when there is no objective reality to tell us we are suffering from illusions? We find and can conquer our illusions only by going out into a world of objective truth. Living only within our own minds we become confused and unable to understand the world.

    Boorstin is wrong.Our vices are the source of our illusions. The object of the mind is the truth, but since the fall of man our minds have become confused by our vices. The passions which affect our minds feed the will with a distorted understanding of what is true and good as opposed to what is false and evil. We conquer our illusions by conquering the disordered passions. As I told my kids when they argued that “you don’t know how I feel,” they were free to believe that a rock is a kumquat, but when they bite the rock reality will break their teeth. If you want to live a happy life then you must overcome your passions which confuse and live in the world as it is, and not as you feel it is.

    • #6
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Mike Rapkoch (View Comment):

    I’m having trouble following the logic here. If there is no “objective reality” how can we “will live in truth” if there is no objective truth against which we can compare our own thoughts and conclusions? How do we overcome out illusions when there is no objective reality to tell us we are suffering from illusions? We find and can conquer our illusions only by going out into a world of objective truth. Living only within our own minds we become confused and unable to understand the world.

    Boorstin is wrong.Our vices are the source of our illusions. The object of the mind is the truth, but since the fall of man our minds have become confused by our vices. The passions which affect our minds feed the will with a distorted understanding of what is true and good as opposed to what is false and evil. We conquer our illusions by conquering the disordered passions. As I told my kids when they argued that “you don’t know how I feel,” they were free to believe that a rock is a kumquat, but when they bite the rock reality will break their teeth. If you want to live a happy life then you must overcome your passions which confuse and live in the world as it is, and not as you feel it is.

    We each create a reality; that doesn’t mean there is no truth. The problem is that the specific way I see the world is hopefully very similar to people who strive to know the truth (as you obviously do), but everything we see about the world is a construct that each of us creates. The construct, or what you call reality is of our own creation, but in a way we have to rely on G-d to tell us how to live out His truth in the world he has created. Even then, trying to always discern the truth that G-d wants isn’t always easy to do, because we draw conclusions through our own reality/lens. That’s why religious people don’t always agree.

    Here’s an example. You and I look at a painting. You love it. I hate it. We each have our reasons for our conclusions. Who is right?

    Your kids were also right (even if they didn’t know it). You didn’t know how they felt. But you were the dad, and you knew the best way for them to behave at that time; later on, they could adjust their behaviors. That doesn’t mean you were wrong to give the input you did.

    Also, I don’t know that vices are the source of our illusions; instead, they are an outcomes of our illusions. I decide for me that overeating isn’t such a big deal; I love to eat and I don’t believe all the health reports about being overweight (I’m not).  If I transcend my illusion about food and eating, I’m in a position to move past that vice and take care of myself.

    I hope this all makes sense, Mike.

    • #7
  8. SecondBite Member
    SecondBite
    @SecondBite

    Objective truth and reality exist, but we are too limited to be able to comprehensively experience or understand either one.  So we develop little simplified models that we can deal with and those are our surrogates for truth and reality.  Any one of us probably has thousands of little models that interact with each other with varying degrees of coherence.  If we are leading well ordered lives, we get out of our own heads enough to test, assess and revise the models a we go through life.  As my parents and their cohort have aged and shuffled off their mortal coils, it has been interesting to see how often the models have become prisons, people having mentally painted themselves into corners.  Some seem to avoid the problem  entirely.  It seems to me that the key is humility: the arrogant trust themselves to deeply.

    I have spent a lot of time in my head with this idea, so I am sure it is true.

    • #8
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    SecondBite (View Comment):

    Objective truth and reality exist, but we are too limited to be able to comprehensively experience or understand either one. So we develop little simplified models that we can deal with and those are our surrogates for truth and reality. Any one of us probably has thousands of little models that interact with each other with varying degrees of coherence. If we are leading well ordered lives, we get out of our own heads enough to test, assess and revise the models a we go through life. As my parents and their cohort have aged and shuffled off their mortal coils, it has been interesting to see how often the models have become prisons, people having mentally painted themselves into corners. Some seem to avoid the problem entirely. It seems to me that the key is humility: the arrogant trust themselves to deeply.

    I have spent a lot of time in my head with this idea, so I am sure it is true.

    Extremely well said, @secondbite. I tried to say the same thing in different way: “In fact, I’d argue that there is no objective reality, at least not one that we can perceive and agree upon.” I think yours is clearer.

    My mother was stuck in her own reality for many years, and it caused her great suffering. As she gradually matured, even into her senior years, she became more self-aware and started to see life differently and in a much more productive and healthy way. It was wonderful to see.

    Thank you for sharing your experience.

    • #9
  10. Majority Rule abridges Free Sp… Coolidge
    Majority Rule abridges Free Sp…
    @MajorityRuleAbridgesSpeech

    Mike Rapkoch (View Comment):
    Mike Rapkoch

    I’m having trouble following the logic here. If there is no “objective reality” how can we “will live in truth” if there is no objective truth against which we can compare our own thoughts and conclusions? How do we overcome out ill

    Hank Williams Sr. sang 

    I went into a home one day just to see some friends of mine
    Of all their books and magazines, not a Bible could I find
    I asked them for the Bible when they brought it, what a shame
    For the dust was covered o’er it, not a fingerprint was plainDust on the Bible, dust on the Holy Word
    The words of all the prophets and the sayings of our Lord
    Of all the other books you’ll find, there’s none salvation holds
    Get the dust off the Bible and redeem your poor soulOh, you can read your magazines of love and tragic things
    But not one word of Bible verse, not a scripture do you know
    When it is the very truth and it’s contents good for you
    But it’s dust is covered o’er it
    And it’s sure to doom your poor soulDust on the Bible, dust on the Holy Word
    The word of all the prophets, and the sayings of our Lord.
    Of all the other books you’ll find, there’s none salvation holds
    Get the dust off the Bible and redeem your poor soul.Oh, if you have a friend you’d like to help along life’s way
    Just tell him that the Good Book shows a mortal how to pray
    The best advice to give him that will make his burdens light
    Is to dust the family bible trades the wrong way for the rightDust on the Bible, dust on the Holy Word
    The word of all the prophets, and the sayings of our Lord
    Of all the other books you’ll find, there’s none salvation holds
    Get the dust off the Bible and redeem your poor soul

     

    I was doing some spring dusting and found this:

    The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge -Proverbs 1:7 NKJV 

    • #10
  11. Majority Rule abridges Free Sp… Coolidge
    Majority Rule abridges Free Sp…
    @MajorityRuleAbridgesSpeech

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    We each create a reality; that doesn’t mean there is no truth. The problem is that the specific way I see the world is hopefully very similar to people who strive to know the truth (as you obviously do), but everything we see about the world is a construct that each of us creates. The construct, or what you call reality is of our own creation, but in a way we have to rely on G-d to tell us how to live out His truth in the world he has created. Even then, trying to always discern the truth that G-d wants isn’t always easy to do, because we draw conclusions through our own reality/lens. That’s why religious people don’t always agree.

    I teach kids how to swim in San Diego. On the second day of class as the mom was handing me the 4 year old student he said, “NO! NO! MOM!, You don’t understand I have a plan!”.  Then there is the story of a 3.5 year old on day two of lessons as his mom handed him to me, “MOM! you’re giving me to the evil mad scientist!”  I could give you a dozen more stories like this describing “reality” and “truth”. 

    In both instances above the truth was a parent acting in the best interest of the child. The reality of drowning being the second greatest cause of death for kids four years and under drives the decision for some parents to put their child into a situation in which “the child looses their sense of control of the world as they perceive it.” I have seen this over 8,000 times. My reality is connected to my sense of control of the world as I perceive it. I argue that is the universal truth of human existence and in every case of human conflict at the core is each person’s sense of control of the world as they perceive it. When our sense of control is threatened we manipulate assets in our control to regain it. Some use money, lawyers, physical power, sex, crying, and of course making a plan, to get our sense of control back. 

    In conclusion, it is about having peace. People’s sense of being in control, I find, is rarely attached to reality. Like the swim students, if they do not learn to swim the reality is they will die if they fall into a pool and no one is there to help, ask the family of the 40 year old gardener who after 20 years of servicing a wealthy client stumbled into their pool. Try Philippians 4:6-7. 

    • #11
  12. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Majority Rule abridges Free Sp… (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    We each create a reality; that doesn’t mean there is no truth. The problem is that the specific way I see the world is hopefully very similar to people who strive to know the truth (as you obviously do), but everything we see about the world is a construct that each of us creates. The construct, or what you call reality is of our own creation, but in a way we have to rely on G-d to tell us how to live out His truth in the world he has created. Even then, trying to always discern the truth that G-d wants isn’t always easy to do, because we draw conclusions through our own reality/lens. That’s why religious people don’t always agree.

    I teach kids how to swim in San Diego. On the second day of class as the mom was handing me the 4 year old student he said, “NO! NO! MOM!, You don’t understand I have a plan!”. Then there is the story of a 3.5 year old on day two of lessons as his mom handed him to me, “MOM! you’re giving me to the evil mad scientist!” I could give you a dozen more stories like this describing “reality” and “truth”.

    In both instances above the truth was a parent acting in the best interest of the child. The reality of drowning being the second greatest cause of death for kids four years and under drives the decision for some parents to put their child into a situation in which “the child looses their sense of control of the world as they perceive it.” I have seen this over 8,000 times. My reality is connected to my sense of control of the world as I perceive it. I argue that is the universal truth of human existence and in every case of human conflict at the core is each person’s sense of control of the world as they perceive it. When our sense of control is threatened we manipulate assets in our control to regain it. Some use money, lawyers, physical power, sex, crying, and of course making a plan, to get our sense of control back.

    In conclusion, it is about having peace. People’s sense of being in control, I find, is rarely attached to reality. Like the swim students, if they do not learn to swim the reality is they will die if they fall into a pool and no one is there to help, ask the family of the 40 year old gardener who after 20 years of servicing a wealthy client stumbled into their pool. Try Philippians 4:6-7.

    A very thoughtful comment, @majorityruleabridgesspeech! I think our realities are quite complementary!!

    • #12
  13. Majority Rule abridges Free Sp… Coolidge
    Majority Rule abridges Free Sp…
    @MajorityRuleAbridgesSpeech

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    We each create a reality; that doesn’t mean there is no truth. T

    Yep, I’m tellin you I’m the boss after 30 years of marriage and she still let’s let me believe it. :)  

    You have heard of the husband who insists he is the head of the house and the wife who says “you maybe the head but I’m the neck and I’ll turn that head which every way I want.”  

    • #13
  14. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Majority Rule abridges Free Sp… (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    We each create a reality; that doesn’t mean there is no truth. T

    Yep, I’m tellin you I’m the boss after 30 years of marriage and she still let’s let me believe it. :)

    You have heard of the husband who insists he is the head of the house and the wife who says “you maybe the head but I’m the neck and I’ll turn that head which every way I want.”

    Well, @majorityruleabridgesspeech, it sounds like you know your place!! 😁

    • #14
  15. Majority Rule abridges Free Sp… Coolidge
    Majority Rule abridges Free Sp…
    @MajorityRuleAbridgesSpeech

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    Well, @majorityruleabridgesspeech, it sounds like you know your place!! 😁

    Well don’t I ever!

    I feel like a minority party representative in the US Congress where the Majority party never changes.

    Hence majority rule abridges free speech. 

    By accident I was able to post the pdf of the book using Ricochet. If you care to learn about the fatal flaw of the founders of America you can download, read and share with who you wish. It’s really a booklet similar to Thomas Paine’s Common Sense from 1776. Yep the first congress established  Majority Rule 230 years ago in violation of the free speech clause. Paine would say of it today, it is our long habit of not thinking a thing wrong giving it an appearance of being right. 

    https://flyzoo.blob.core.windows.net/uploads/5e691351bb547e338c188f21-1earfinal.pdf

    • #15
  16. Mike Rapkoch Moderator
    Mike Rapkoch
    @MikeRapkoch

    We each create a reality; that doesn’t mean there is no truth. The problem is that the specific way I see the world is hopefully very similar to people who strive to know the truth (as you obviously do), but everything we see about the world is a construct that each of us creates. The construct, or what you call reality is of our own creation, but in a way we have to rely on G-d to tell us how to live out His truth in the world he has created. Even then, trying to always discern the truth that G-d wants isn’t always easy to do, because we draw conclusions through our own reality/lens. That’s why religious people don’t always agree.

    This is characteristic of the modern philosophy that tells us we can create ourselves. As Jean Paul Sartre put it “existence precedes essence.” According to him, we first exist and then, by our choices, create ourselves. What’s missing in this is the reality that we possess a human nature that orients us toward our final cause as rational animals to seek objective truth precisely because our nature moves us to seek what is true, good, and beautiful for a human being. I therefore don’t agree with your claim that “everything we see about the world is a construct that each of us creates…” Knowledge is obtained by seeing and understanding the object of our attention: The mind in agreement with its object. For example, if we are sitting at a table with a bottle of wine on top of it, we both know that we are perceiving a bottle of wine. This is true even though we are each looking at it from a different angle. One of us may see the bottle as clear glass while the other sees it as green. But these are what are called “accidental forms” that may be different from our individual vantage point. Color, shape, size and other such forms may be different from one bottle to the another. But it is still a bottle of wine and we both know it. We both know that it is true to say “this is a bottle of wine.” 

    As for G-d, he doesn’t have His own truth. He is truth. He does not directly tell us what to do with our lives. He reveals Himself in a variety of ways: Revelation, creation, human nature, prayer, and for a select few mystical visions, are just some examples of G-d’s relationship to us. We are made in His image and likeness and are therefore given a purpose, which is to work towards beatitude. Yes, as Paul says, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” But to do so we need what G-d has given us through these (and other) means. G-d’s will is that we be like Him.

    Here’s an example. You and I look at a painting. You love it. I hate it. We each have our reasons for our conclusions. Who is right?

    Art has a purpose and it is to capture and represent both beauty and truth. If it reflects these it is good even if we don’t agree. One of us is right in loving it and the other is wrong. Here’s an example: Years ago I was visiting The Metropolitan  Museum of Art when I came upon Rembrandt’s “Aristotle With A Bust of Homer.” I was transfixed. Had I the time I would have looked at it for hours. Why is it both good and beautiful? Well, it reflects both truth and beauty.  On the other hand, the painting of the Madonna covered in dung is both false and ugly. No rational person could like it.

    Yes, there are differences in taste. I love Rembrandt, others don’t, but there is objective beauty despite those differences. Roger Scruton wrote a great deal about this.

    Your kids were also right (even if they didn’t know it). You didn’t know how they felt. But you were the dad, and you knew the best way for them to behave at that time; later on, they could adjust their behaviors. That doesn’t mean you were wrong to give the input you did.

    Of course I knew what they felt. We learn to understand feelings through our own experience. Otherwise empathy would be impossible. For example, if I see some who’s broken his leg I don’t say “He feels like he’s in pain.” I say “He is in pain.” I know this because I have experienced pain. You cannot know he is in pain if you have never been in pain. I understand that it is true he is in pain. If, on the other-hand, he is feigning pain my experience will eventually come to know it. I knew what my kids were feeling because I too have felt something true, but eventually discovered it to be false. Again, there is an objective reality that will eventually break through false feelings.

    Also, I don’t know that vices are the source of our illusions; instead, they are an outcomes of our illusions. I decide for me that overeating isn’t such a big deal; I love to eat and I don’t believe all the health reports about being overweight (I’m not). If I transcend my illusion about food and eating, I’m in a position to move past that vice and take care of myself.

    I again disagree. Food is both necessary to survival and good in itself. However, a glutton fails to see that his excess is bad for him because his passion for food distorts his appetite by distorting his mind and weakening his will. He is deluded not by his illusions, but by his refusal to exercise moderation because he has lost the capacity to see the reality that he is killing himself. His passions have overtaken his mind and distorted the truth that is reflected in the effects of his overeating. His illusions are caused by his vice.

     

    I hope this all makes sense, Mike.

     

    • #16
  17. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Mike Rapkoch (View Comment):

    This is characteristic of the modern philosophy that tells us we can create ourselves. As Jean Paul Sartre put it “existence precedes essence.” According to him, we first exist and then, by our choices, create ourselves. What’s missing in this is the reality that we possess a human nature that orients us toward our final cause as rational animals to seek objective truth precisely because our nature moves us to seek what is true, good, and beautiful for a human being. I therefore don’t agree with your claim that “everything we see about the world is a construct that each of us creates…” Knowledge is obtained by seeing and understanding the object of our attention: The mind in agreement with its object. For example, if we are sitting at a table with a bottle of wine on top of it, we both know that we are perceiving a bottle of wine. This is true even though we are each looking at it from a different angle. One of us may see the bottle as clear glass while the other sees it as green. But these are what are called “accidental forms” that may be different from our individual vantage point. Color, shape, size and other such forms may be different from one bottle to the another. But it is still a bottle of wine and we both know it. We both know that it is true to say “this is a bottle of wine.” 

    As for G-d, he doesn’t have His own truth. He is truth. He does not directly tell us what to do with our lives. He reveals Himself in a variety of ways: Revelation, creation, human nature, prayer, and for a select few mystical visions, are just some examples of G-d’s relationship to us. We are made in His image and likeness and are therefore given a purpose, which is to work towards beatitude. Yes, as Paul says, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” But to do so we need what G-d has given us through these (and other) means. G-d’s will is that we be like Him.

    You’re taking my comments and extending them to ideas I didn’t discuss, Mike. I didn’t say we can create ourselves. Creating our own reality or our understanding of the world is not creating ourselves; G-d created us, and we can choose how to live out our lives. I also said that our realities may overlap, that there are things we can agree on. But that doesn’t make our realities the same or identical. Regarding G-d, He has his own truth and He is truth. Being created in His image and likeness doesn’t give us purpose; it is a reminder of our connection to G-d, but our purpose (I say this as a Jew) is to fulfill his commandments and to serve Him and others. We do these things both because we love Him and He has commanded us to do so. We don’t worry about our salvation; we do the right things because He calls us to do it, not for reward or punishment. I do agree that G-d wants us to be like Him, but with free will, we could also choose not to. I think we have gone astray from vices and illusions, though.

    • #17