Illusion vs. Reality

I thought that I would do something different today, and write a bit about something that has been on my mind for some time and ask for your comments and responses. Feel free to use it as a visual journal prompt and share your responses on the Flickr site.

Here lately, I've been concerned with illusion and reality - not the magician on a stage kind, but a personal kind. I've thought so much recently about who we truly are and how we are perceived by others - or how we allow others to perceive us - how we put on masks and play certain roles in certain situations. It's amazing how disparate our inner selves and our outer selves can be. There are parts we hide - out of fear, out of protection, out of necessity, out of habit. Haven't we all forced a smile on our faces when we would rather yell, scream, or cry?

We build illusions both for ourselves and for others. Have we not built great fantasies in our heads about certain people - idealizing them and building them up? Have we not built illusions about ourselves to put on a front so that people cannot see the real us? Have we not kept ourselves disconnected from the world because we were afraid that someone might glimpse the real us?

But we are all human - connected by the experiences that all humans experience - yet fear, greed, lust, aggression, and ego get in the way of those connections. We see people and make instant judgements about them based on the way they look or act, based on the things they say or how they say it, or based on our own prejudices. Our judgements are shallow. In our haste we see only the paper thin shells - an illusion that we place on these people. Yet reality may be so different, but we stick to our snap judgements and pass on by - we take what we want from them and leave them.

Illusions are a way to use people, manipulate them, disregard them, categorize them. Masks are all they are - no deeper - no more complex. And so we do not need to do the work of understanding, knowing, and empathizing. We can go on. We never see the soul. We will never touch a life in this way. We will never make a difference in this world because we can not get beyond the illusions that we all make.

Reality can be ugly and dirty and dark. Yet it can be beautiful and spiritual and bright. We have the power to affect and be affected by the world if we just let it. We all have the need to know how we have changed the world. Unfortunately, too many of us never get the chance because we are trapped within ourselves and we are trapped in the roles that we play. The real human heart beats within all of us. We turn away from the pain. We look for happiness in the illusions we create. We get away from our authentic selves because it is too painful, too vulnerable, too much to bear.

If we cannot embrace our own complexities - our own hearts, we cannot embrace another's. We will always be alone. We are all here on planet Earth reaching out for love, for compassion, for acceptance, for connection. That is what unites us.

Can we pull away the mask, celebrate our authentic selves, and connect with humanity? If we can, we can change the world.

I could go on, but I'll just put my mask back on and step back into my role, but before I do, I would ask for comments and responses. Please leave your comments here and post your visual journal responses to the Flickr Site.