I is for Illusion

All is Vanity image by Charles Allen Gilbert

Charles Allen Gilbert completed the classic black & white optical illusion in 1892. It can be seen as a pretty girl admiring her reflection in a mirror, or as an ominous skull in the background. The tableau is exquisite and the message is clear.

Illusion: the image created by imagination and having no objective reality. Things look different than they really are. Illusion is something that deceives by producing a false or misleading impression of reality, a false impression.

Do you get caught up in the constant drive to achieve some ideal and seemingly unattainable version of yourself and your life? I do. Or I should say I used to. I don’t so much anymore because after 50 years it’s finally sinking in that so much of what I see is illusion.

I see model-thin women, making self-deluding statements with their latest must-have fashions, and for years I’ve been insanely jealous but now I know that what lies beneath the veneer of confident smiles is a woman who is just as unsatisfied with her body as I am with mine.

Every day I see façades of happy couples but I know that behind the façade is a pair of individuals who are essentially miserable being married.

I see those who have so much money they couldn’t possibly spend it all in a lifetime, yet they hold on to it so tightly as if that money defines their identity and is inextricably tied to their core being. I can’t help but yearn to have that kind of money and I tell myself, with me, it would be different; I wouldn’t fall victim to its spell. But is that the truth?

I look to all the mansions and expansive homes with indulgent envy but I’m pretty sure now that the people inside are just as fucked up as the rest of us.

TS Eliot said “Humankind cannot handle very much reality.” I’d say that’s probably not far from the truth. We all seem to live in a land of illusion and for the most part, we seem to be pretty okay with it…maybe because we don’t even realize it.

So, is reality overrated? What do you think? Is illusion a preferred state?

Welcome to the grand illusion
Come on in and see what’s happening
Pay the price, get your tickets for the show
The stage is set, the band starts playing
Suddenly your heart is pounding
You’re wishing secretly you were a star

But don’t be fooled by the radio
The TV or the magazines
They’ll show you photographs of how your life should be
But they’re just someone else’s fantasies
So if you think your life is complete confusion
‘Cause you never win the game
Just remember that it’s a grand illusion
And deep inside we’re all the same
We’re all the same

So if you think your life is complete confusion
Because your neighbor’s got it made
Just remember that it’s a grand illusion
And deep inside we’re all the same

America spells competition
Join us in our blind ambition
Get yourself a brand new motorcar
Someday soon we’ll stop to ponder
What on earth’s this spell we’re under
We made the grade and still we wonder
Who the hell we are

Lyrics to “The Grand Illusion” by Styx, the title track of their 1977 Grand Illusion album



Copyright © 2014 Michele Truhlik. All Rights Reserved.

20 thoughts on “I is for Illusion

  1. I think illusion is definitely not a preferred state but I get as a place to catch a breath for a moment but the price is too high. Love the video–Styx is one of my faves!


  2. Very interesting and thought-provoking. Yes, most people buy into the illusion because that’s what society tells us is good and what we should strive for. But it’s so surface with no depth, that’s why no one is happy who achieves that – it’s all for show, and nothing has changed inside where it really matters. I think that’s what our growth is about – seeing the illusions and letting them go so that what we are left with is what has true substance in our lives, and that is what makes us feel good. Great post! ❤ 🙂


  3. Brilliant! There are a handful of people that my human mommy says have “figured it out.” They are the people who maybe at one time bought into the illusion or who happen to be surrounded by people who are living the illusion, but they have come to terms with their reality . . . and you can just sense the peace. They’re finished playing that game. Some of those people that she says have “figured it out” may seem a bit odd (Willie Nelson and Snoop Dogg are two), but it’s the highest compliment she can give. She thinks you’ve “figured it out.” 🙂


    • Aw, thank you! That is a very high compliment! Sometimes I think I may have it figured out and other times I think I’m still clueless! I think you’re right about Willie, definitely. Good to see you back here Harper Lee! I always like when you visit!


    • Oh that’s cool! How fun! Glad it brought back memories for you. Memories are the best, especially from that era…


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