Thursday, March 16, 2017

When your illusions are shattered ...

... the thing to remember is that they were your illusions. You didn't think of them yourself; you simply chose them from the available options. Maybe you didn't even find them yourself but had to wait out until some seemingly helpful person showed them to you. If so, that seemingly helpful person may even be the one who later shattered them. But they were your illusions because you embraced them.

File that under the heading of "advice I really could have used back in 1983".

What I'm wondering about now is revisiting them. The illusions. What was it that swept me up sometime in the 1970s and made me so vulnerable to those pedlars of illusions who were such a big part of my life. There is no point in blaming them—I think they were just as vulnerable to those illusions themselves, which is why they were so effective at selling them—but the illusions themselves should be scrutinized.

The final episode of Mad Men end with "I'd like to teach the world to sing". I'm three years younger than Bobby Draper and seven years older than Matthew Weiner. There was a recited word hit of a poem called Desiderata maybe a year or two later than the supposed end of Mad Men. It's the sort of thing you don't publicly admit to liking but it was in high rotation on all the radio stations the year I was twelve and that sort of thing can make a really deep impression on a boy.

I have reservations about it now but there is also some good advice in that poem. That said, even at twelve, I only turned it up when I was the only person in the room. But that kind of thinking was much in the air then. And that is the atmosphere that led Matthew Weiner to create this.

Okay, but is that an illusion? The temptation is to say yes but I think it's just a hope. Even the people who embrace stuff like this know the world isn't really like that.

This, on the other hand, is illusion. It's also much better art and I can't help but wish that the series had ended here instead of as above. More interestingly, for my purposes, it almost exactly mirrors the ending above only with a seemingly more cynical ending. I say seemingly because this is what illusions look like.

If you want to sell someone, like yourself, a whole boatload of illusions, the way to do it is to make it look like you're a cynic dismantling illusions. And that was the kind of illusion I grew up with: the illusion of being above illusions. One of the options on the table, I can't say whether it was the only one, but one of the things I was taught from an early age I was taught to cynically doubt not only other people's motives but also their hopes and dreams. As I say, I embraced these illusions so I don't blame others.

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