Illusions
Excerpts

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Excerpt #1 - The Savior:

Once there lived a village of creatures along the bottom of a great crystal river.

The current of the river swept silently over them all - young and old, rich and poor, good and evil, the current going its own way, knowing only its own crystal self.

Each creature in its own manner clung tightly to the twigs and rocks at the river bottom, for clinging was their way of life, and resisting the current what each had learned from birth.

But one creature said at last, 'I am tired of clinging. Though I cannot see it with my eyes, I trust that the current knows where it is going. I shall let go, and let it take me where it will. Clinging, I shall die of boredom.'

The other creatures laughed and said, 'Fool! Let go, and that current you worship will throw you tumbled and smashed across the rocks, and you shall die quicker than boredom!'

But the one heeded them not, and taking a breath did let go, and at once was tumbled and smashed by the current across the rocks.

Yet in time, as the creature refused to cling again, the current lifted him free from the bottom, and he was bruised and hurt no more.

And the creatures downstream, to whom he was a stranger, cried, 'See a miracle! A creature like ourselves, yet he flies! See the Messiah, come to save us all!'

And the one carried in the current said, 'I am no more Messiah than you. The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare let go. Our true work is this voyage, this adventure.'

But they cried the more, 'Saviour!' all the while clinging to the rocks, and when they looked again he was gone, and they were left alone making legends of a Saviour.


Excerpt #2 - Life is a Movie:

We Finished the day in Hammond, Wisconsin, flying a few Monday passengers, then we walked to town for dinner, and started back.
"Don I will grant you that this life can be interesting or dull or whatever we choose to make it. But even in my brilliant times I have never been able to figure out why we're here in the first place. Tell me something about that.
We passed the hardware store (closed) and the movie theater (open: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), and in stead of answering he stopped turned back on the sidewalk.
"You have money, don't you?"
"Lots. What's the matter?"
"Let's see the show," he said. "You buy ?"
"I don't know, Don. You go ahead. I'll get back to the airplanes. Don't like to leave 'em alone too long." What was suddenly so important about a motion picture?
"The planes are OK. Let's go to the show."
"It's already started."
"So we come in late."
He was already buying his ticket. I followed him into the dark and we sat down near the back of the theater. There might have been fifty people around us in the gloom.
I forgot why we came, after a while, and got caught up in the story, which I've always thought is a classic movie, anyway; this would be my third time seeing Sundance. The time in the theater spiraled and stretched the way it does in a good film, and I watched awhile for technical reasons. . . how each scene was designed and fit to the next, why this scene now and not later on. I tried to look at it that way but got spun up in the story and forgot.
About the part where Butch and Sundance are surrounded by the entire Bolivian army, almost at the end, Shimoda touched my shoulder. I leaned toward him, watching the movie, wishing he could have kept whatever he was going to say till after it was over.
"Richard ?"
"Yeah."
"Why are you here?"
"It's a good movie, Don. Sh" Butch and Sundance, blood all over them, were talking about why they ought to go Australia. Why is it good?" he said.
"Why is it good?" he said.
"It's fun. Sh. I'll tell you later."
"Snap out of it. Wake up. It's all illusions"
I was irked. "Donald, there's just a few minutes more and then we can talk all you want. But let me watch the movie, OK?"
He whispered intensely, dramatically. "Richard why are you here?"
"Look, I'm here because you asked me to come in here!" I turned back and tried to watch the end.
"You didn't have to come, you could have said no thank you."
"I LIKE THE MOVIE . . ." A man in front turned to look at me for a second. "I like the movie, Don; is there anything wrong with that?"
"Nothing at all," he said, and he didn't say another word till it was over and we were walking again past the used-tractor lot and out into the dark toward the field and the airplanes. It would be raining, before long.
I thought about his odd behavior in the theater. "You do everything for a reason, Don?"
"Sometimes."
"Why the movie? Why did you all of a sudden want to see Sundance ?"
"You asked a question. "
"Yes. Do you have an answer?"
"That is my answer. We went to the movie because you asked a question. The movie was the answer to your question."
He was laughing at me, I knew it.
"What was my question ?"
There was a long pained silence. "Your question, Richard, was that even in your brilliant times you have never been able to figure out why we are here."
I remembered. "And the movie was my answer. "
"Yes "
"Oh "
"You don't understand," he said.
"No "
"That was a good movie," he said, "but the world's best movie is still an illusion, is it not? The pictures' aren't even moving; they only appear to move. Changing light that seems to move across a flat screen set up in the dark?"
"Well, yes." I was beginning to understand.
"The other people, any people anywhere who go to any movie show, why are they there, when it is only illusions?"
"Well, it's entertainment," I said.
"Fun. That's right. One."
"Could be educational."
"Good. It is always that. Learning Two."
"Fantasy, escape."
"That's fun, too. One. "
"Technical reasons. To see how a film is made."
"Learning. Two. "
"Escape from boredom . . ."
"Escape. You said that."
"Social. To be with friends," I said.
"Reason for going, but not for seeing the film. That's fun, anyway. One."
Whatever I came up with fit his two fingers; people see films for fun or for learning or for both together.
"And a movie is like a lifetime, Don, is that right?"
"Yes."
Then why would anybody choose a bad lifetime, a horror movie ?"
"They not only come to the horror movie for fun, they know it is going to be a horror movie when they walk in," he said.
"But why ? . . ."
"Do you like horror films ?"
"No."
"Do you ever see them ?"
"No."
"But some people spend a lot of money and time to see horror or soap-opera problems that to other people are dull and boring? . ." He left the question for me to answer.
"Yes."
"You don't have to see their films and they don't have to see yours. That is called 'freedom.' "
"But why would anybody want to be horrified ? Or bored ?"
"Because they think they deserve it for horrifying somebody else, or they like the excitement of horrification or that boring is the way they think films have to be. Can you believe that lots of people for reasons that are very sound to them enjoy believing that they are helpless in their own films? No you can't."
"No, I can't," I said.
"Until you understand that, you will wonder why some people are unhappy. They are unhappy because they have chosen to be unhappy, and, Richard, that is all right!"
"Hm."
"We are game-playing, fun-having creatures, we are the otters of the universe. We cannot die, we cannot hurt ourselves any more than illusions on the screen can be hurt. But we can believe we're hurt, in whatever agonizing detail we want. We can believe we're victims, killed and killing, shuddered around by good luck and bad luck."
"Many lifetimes?" I asked.
"How many movies have you seen?"
"Oh "
"Films about living on this planet, about living on other planets; anything that's got space and time is all movie and all illusion," he said. "But for a while we can learn a huge amount and have a lot of fun with our illusions, can we not?"
"How far do you take this movie thing, Don?"
"How far do you want ? You saw the film tonight partly because I wanted to see it. Lots of people choose lifetimes because they enjoy doing things together. The actors in the film tonight have played together in other films before or after depends on which film you've seen first' or you can see them at the same time on different screens. We buy tickets to these films, paying admission by agreeing to believe in the reality of space and the reality of time. . . Neither one is true, but anyone who doesn't want to pay that price cannot appear on this planet, or in any space-time system at all."
"Are there some people who don't have any lifetimes at all in space-time ?"
"Are there some people who never go movies ?"
"I see. They get their learning in different ways ?"
"Right you are," he said, pleased with me. "Space-time is a fairly primitive school. But a lot of people stay with the illusion even if it is boring, and they don't want the lights turned on early."
"Who writes these movies, Don ?"
"Isn't it strange how much we know if only we ask ourselves instead of somebody else? Who writes these movies, Richard ?"
"We do," I said.
"Who acts ?"
"Us "
"Who's the cameraman, the projectionist, the theater manager, the ticket-taker, the distributor, and who watches them all happen? Who is free to walk out in the middle, any time, change the plot whenever, who is free to see the same film over and over again?"
"Let me guess," I said. "Anybody who wants to?"
"Is that enough freedom for you ?" he said.
"And is that why movies are so popular? That we instinctively know they are a parallel of our own lifetimes?"
"Maybe so... maybe not. Doesn't matter much, does it? What's the projector?"
"Mind," I said. "No. Imagination. It's our imagination, no matter what you say."
"What's the film?" he asked.
"Got me."
"Whatever we give our consent to put into our imagination?"
"Maybe so, Don."
"You can hold a reel of film in your hands," he said, "and it's all finished and complete - beginning, middle, end are all there that same second, the same millionths of a second. The film exists beyond the time that it records, and if you know what the movie is, you know generally what's going to happen before you walk into the theater: there's going to be battles and excitement, winners and losers, romance, disaster; you know that's all going to be there. But in order to get caught up and swept away in it, in order to enjoy it to its most, you have to put it in a projector and let it go through the lens minute by minute.. . any illusion requires space and time to be experienced. So you pay your nickel and you get your ticket and you settle down an forget what's going on outside the theater an the movie begins for you."
"And nobody's really hurt? That's just tomato-sauce blood?"
"No, it's blood all right," he said. "But it might as well be tomato sauce for the effect it has on our real life . . ."
"And reality?"
"Reality is divinely indifferent, Richard. A mother doesn't care what part her child plays in his games; one day bad-guy, next day good-guy. The Is doesn't even know about our illusions and games. It only knows Itself, and us in its likeness, perfect and finished."
"I'm not sure I want to be perfect and finished. Talk about boredom."
"Look at the sky," he said, and it was such a quick subject-change that I looked at the sky. There was some broken cirrus, way up high, the first bit of moonlight silvering the edges.
"Pretty sky," I said.
"It is a perfect sky?"
"Well, it's always a perfect sky, Don."
"Are you telling me that even though it's changing every second, the sky is always a perfect sky?"
"Gee, I'm smart. Yes ?"
"And the sea is always a perfect sea, and it's always changing, too," he said "If perfection is stagnation, then heaven is a swamp! And the Is ain't hardly no swamp-cookie."
"Isn't hardly no swamp-cookie," I corrected, absently. "Perfect, and all the time changing. Yeah. I'll buy that."
"You bought it a long time ago, if you insist on time. "
I turned to him as we walked. "Doesn't it get boring for you, Don, staying on just this one dimension ?"
"Oh. Am I staying on just this one dimension ?" he said. "Are you ?"
"Why is it that everything I say is wrong?"
"Is everything you say wrong ?" he said.
"I think I'm in the wrong business."
"You think maybe real estate?" he said.
"Real estate or insurance. "
"There's a future in real estate, if you want one. "
"OK, I'm sorry " I said "I don't want a future. Or a past. I'd just as soon become a nice old Master of the World of Illusion. Looks like maybe in another week ?"
"Well, Richard, I hope not that long!" I looked at him carefully, but he wasn't smiling.
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