Illusion in Life
This piece was written a few years back for an online magazine
Role of Illusion in human life.
‘Come out of your illusion and face the facts in the light of reality.’ This is what we always hear in our day-to-day life. When looked in dictionary, the word ‘illusion’ is described as an erroneous mental representation. So, the very meaning of the word defines it as an erroneous act. But is it really an erroneous act? If it is so, then why human race was born with it and why it did not get discarded on the path of evolution. When evolution kept filtering the unwanted human traits and improvising the important ones, it chose to select ‘illusion’ which also got evolved along with Homo sapiens.
The two schools of thought about human evolution support the birth of illusion as a support system for human life. The two different views are from people who believe in God and those who are atheist and neglect any such existence of supreme power. Take in account the first school of thoughts where a supreme power God creates all human beings. So, here the very birth of human race begins with an illusion of existence of God, who so far has been the biggest delusion in human life. The second school of thoughts is of scientists and atheist. According to them, the complexity of life evolved from a physical singularity probably a genetic material like RNA and DNA. And the diversity of life evolved during the course of natural selection and whatever traits we see today in the diverse life is an attempt of these selfish genes to survive in a competitive environment.
Dawkins quotes Atheism: A Very Short Introduction:
What most atheists do believe is that although there is only one kind of stuff in the universe and it is physical, out of this stuff comes minds, beauty, emotions, moral values – in short the full gamut of phenomena that gives richness to human life
According to these atheist groups the belief in Supernatural power like God also evolved as a survival aid for this selfish gene. The divine faith led to better propagation of species. So here it supports that this was the illusion of existence of God that made the species a superior species.
We often hear that ‘Life is Faith’; faith being the biggest illusion of human life. In nutshell we mean that ‘Life is illusion’ when we say so.
If we look at both schools of thoughts, we would realize that the very individuality or the personhood, which is considered so important in life, is an illusion. The big question arises- Is personhood really an illusion? And the answer would be a big YES. If God created us, we all are same and there is nothing like personification or individuality. We all can be reduced to same things. If we are chunk of physical materials, then how are we different? How come ‘you’are ‘you’ and ‘I’ am ‘I’. This is the illusion of personhood that makes life unique for everyone. If there is no personhood struggle in life, life looses its charm. Our lives go around establishing our identity and having our own status in the society. If we accept the reality of being a chunk of physical matters just having sole purpose of propagation of selfish genes inside us, the whole talk about struggle and achievement vaporizes leaving behind a motto less life. Where is the enthusiasm to carry on a decent life? Thanks to illusion that gives so much to look forward in life and keeps us motivated to go for it.
Emotions and relations, which provide so much richness to life, are also an illusion. The reality is that a God created creature falls in love with other such creature for the propagation of species. Or a chunk of physical matters falls in love with other such chunk to bring a third chunk on this planet. So what about the beautiful love and relationship talks? Are they all illusions? Of course they are. It is this illusion of ‘perfect relation’, which makes us act in the way we do. And not to forget many professionals in our society like the divorce lawyers, psychologists and marriage counselors are cashing this illusion in life and making big money. A mother loves her babies out of her motherly feelings. Is there any thing like a motherly feeling? If we come out of illusion and face it in the light of harsh reality, we would get an ugly look of the purest form of love. A mother loves her babies because she is programmed to do so by the selfish genes inside her. The selfish genes make her do so to ensure their survival through generations. Why so much respect is given to the sacrifices that parents make for the betterment of their kids? The pain, the hardship and the sacrifices taken by one to groom and become a better parent are all acts of illusion.
In our day to day lives, illusion becomes the core of life. We have talks, debates and arguments over topics which are nothing but ‘illusion’. If there were no illusion, life would have been chaos. We have faith in ‘karma’ and ‘luck’. Good deeds or good karma brings fortune and good luck while bad karma or ill deeds brings ill effects in life. So the desire to get a better life ahead (as per religious beliefs good karma pays for better life after death) makes us do all the humane things. If we lived in the reality, we would have gone taking the selfish inhuman ways to ensure our survival as per the evolutionary theory of ‘survival of the fittest’. Society would have been chaos. Illusion helps to keep the society streamlined as the feelings of faith and fear makes us disciplined in our acts. The feelings, reactions and expressions that make life so spicy are all illusion.
In conclusion, life is woven around illusions. Living in 100% harsh reality would be like beginning a journey with end in mind. And at the end of reality path there is the ruthless mortality waiting for everyone. The end is disheartening enough to exhaust anyone at the mere beginning. In fact in our whole life, we deliberately try to escape from the reality of mortality. Our love and bonding to life is an illusion. Till the end we want to stay attached with it as it gives us a sense of security and belonging. So it is the illusion which keeps us fueled up for the long journey, keeping us buckled up to face the challenges and rejoice the beauty through the ups and downs of the life’s roller coaster ride. There is nothing like a ‘perfect’ life. It only exists in reel life on silver screen where the entire life is lived in couple of hours. But it is the illusion for a perfect life that we keep striving at both professional and personal ends. We have arguments over breakfast table, heartaches and heartbreaks during lunch, compromises at dinner and we wake up next morning with a hope of new smiling day.
Life without illusion is like canvas of reality with black, white and some shades of grey here and there. Illusion makes life worth living and spills beautiful colors over the monotonous canvas of life. Though it might be contradictory to reality but it is the one that makes reality acceptable and adorable. It acts as a catalyst as well as balancing agent. Illusion is one of the manifestations of beautiful human mind and human soul. As Vivekananda said-
“Neither the body nor the senses are real - these are only instruments of varied expressions and actions associated with the temporal world of Atman , the Divine Self. “.