New Read: Illusions

In my world, I call “three days” a good streak, especially when it feels this good. The system fits, for now, and that’s the part I need to remember. If, in the future, the system does not fit, change is ok and it’s ok even if it’s temporary. Does that make sense at all?

I know myself well, though, and I’ve not been all that good at riding the waves of change. If I’m currently in a brilliant mood, I expect that mood to go on forever. When it shifts, I get upset at myself. “What the hell is wrong with you, Michelle? Get it together for more than a few days in a row!”

Same goes for when I’m in a funk. My mind goes in circles of, “My life is terrible. It’s always been terrible. I’m the worst.”

Not helpful, is it?

But something has changed lately. In the back of my mind, I keep thinking, “This is good today and I will enjoy it, but tomorrow I might do something different.” Now… will I follow through with that plan? Maybe. Maybe I’ll start to feel like a failure and grump about it, but I think this time I’ll remember and sit with the new mood for a while. We’ll see.

illusions by richard bach on a grass background

I picked up a simple little book between The Masks of God and Ulysses, called Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach. I needed something short and sweet to sit with before I jumped into the stream of consciousness that is James Joyce. It took me about two and half hours to read the whole thing, and I loved almost every page.

Illusions is written by the same man that wrote Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I read that book a few years ago, another one I wish I had found when my sons still wanted me to read to them before they went to bed. I had picked it up used, I’m not sure why now, but when my husband saw it he said it was a famous book and that he had read it in junior high school. I’d never heard of it.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull was so beautiful that years later, when I saw Richard Bach’s name on a small book in a giveaway box, I snatched it up immediately, even though I knew nothing about it.

What’s it about? Well, the story is about a man going from field to field in Indiana selling rides in his bi-plane. He meets another man doing the same thing, but this man is a “Jesus-like” character, a reluctant messiah, running away from the crowds on the shore. Lessons are learned, and life goes on. There was much to take away from the story, and much I left behind.

Here are a couple of good quotes to chew on.

“Well, Donald, Part One: I do not exist to impress the world. I exist to live my life in a way that will make me happy.”

And, “Richard, you are going to lose ninety percent of your audience unless you learn to keep it short!”

Yeah… I know. And then, in keeping it short you end up being vague and everyone gets upset and fights in the comments. “THAT’S not always true!” “Sure, if…” and “You might think that’s ok, but you don’t know me or my situation!” Like the thoughts you probably had when I quoted, “… live my life in a way that will make me happy.”

The following paragraph really got to me. I posted a bit of it on my Facebook profile, but no one responded to it. I’ve learned not to let that bother me. We’ve become too dependent on “interaction” on social media. It’s why I’ve turned off “likes and follows” on my blog. It’s enough for me that I’ve said my piece. Comments are still open for now, but I’m considering dropping that as well. I’m working on that.

Here’s the piece that got me thinking.

“Richard, in being so fierce toward my vampire, you were doing what you wanted to do, even though you thought it was going to hurt somebody else. He even told you he’d be hurt if…”

“He was going to suck my blood!”

“Which is what we do to anyone when we tell them we’ll be hurt if they don’t live our way.”

“The thing that puzzles you,” he said, “is an accepted saying that happens to be impossible. The phrase is hurt somebody else. We choose, ourselves, to be hurt of not to be hurt, no matter what. Us who decides. Nobody else. My vampire told you he’d be hurt if you didn’t let him? That’s his decision to be hurt , that’s his choice. What you do about it is your decision, your choice: give him blood; ignore him; tie him up; drive a stake of holly through his heart. If he doesn’t want the holly stake, he’s free to resist, in whatever way he wants. It goes on and on, choices, choices.”

Hard to swallow, isn’t it? But it’s true. I create the hurt in my mind; I choose it. I could choose something else. This past year, maybe more like the last six months maybe, I have realized it and begun practicing it. It’s liberating. If I feel bad about something, say I take offense at someone’s words or actions, then I’m choosing to feel bad and I accept it. If I don’t want to feel bad, then I choose not to take offense. No one makes me feel anything. It’s up to me, the only thing I have any control over at all is myself.

At the end of the book, in his manual for messiah’s, he reads, “Everything in this book may be wrong.” It applies to this book as well, and this post. Life on earth is not static, everything is changing, evolving. There can’t be a static manual that applies to everyone, everywhere, in every time. Each life is an ongoing individual experiment in experience and interpretation.

Be easy on yourself, and others. We’re all only tourists here.

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