I’m a big fan of a well done illusion. The magician takes out a deck of cards, shuffles it, and does something that totally stuns everyone watching. It’s unexpected. It’s a fantastic illusion. It looks like magic. It’s just well placed science and art, we know this intellectually, but our eyes deceive our brains. Sometimes an illusion is so craftily put together, so outrageous in composition, that we simply are not capable of figuring out how it was done. It defies all our attempts to explain it.
It’s still an illusion and not magic.
We fall into a similar hypnotic trance if we read a particularly engaging novel. We’re transported from wherever we actually are into a fictitious world that feels almost as real as the one we normally occupy. And it’s no different when we watch a good TV program or movie.
It’s still just an illusion.
When we create scenarios in our minds about upcoming events based on trajectories we’re keen on, we can become embroiled in fights long before they would even occur. We are often adept at creating the very inner-illusion of our problem externally when we meet with the circumstances we foresaw. In fact we do this kind of thing habitually and repeatedly to the point we don’t even notice that we make many of our illusions into an unnecessary and painful reality.
Being mindful means shedding light on this strange illusion-making habit we have. Maybe we can stop it, and maybe we can’t. Maybe we can change it.
It’s a matter of great curiosity why we continually perform these self-sabotaging ‘magic tricks’ on ourselves. I don’t have any answers or pointers about this. I just find it curious.
I too create these illusions, but then I put them into novel format (whenever I can). I purposefully create the illusion on the page. This achieves a couple of things. One, it often (definitely not always) puts a stop to the outer discord I would otherwise sow. It also helps me release any unrecognized emotions floating around under the surface. Or at least see that they’re there. Sometimes those emotions are too strong and they trip me up as predictably as you’d imagine.
The idea of using the creative power of inner illusion and putting it on the page is it traps some of the energetic investment there. It doesn’t escape as easily from your projection to the page and out to the people around you because as you review it, you can begin to see the absurdity of it.
Illusions are powerful. We need to be conscious of them because they really can negatively impact our daily lives. Our phones and computers can be a major contributing factor to this–especially social media.
Think about this just a moment: you are reading words on a screen right now. And you’re reading words on a screen when you look at your social media feed. The difference is in what those words evoke or provoke in you as you read them. Now, they could just be words on a screen if you wanted to be all Spock about it. That might even be preferable. But words illicit and influence what we think, how we think about something, and our actions or reactions.
If you really think about it, our words are programming ourselves and others in a way that has never before in history been possible. Our words are programming a very large audience all at once. Whether that’s through social media, or blogs, or tweets–our words can create powerful and even dangerous illusions that can actually harm others. Or help them. Or really powerfully and radically help and change someone’s life. It’s up to us.
The amazing thing is that it’s up to us how we want to program and condition ourselves to change our words, create better illusions, and make better realities and conditions as a result. It’s up to us.
With these same hands we can create tools of construction or destruction. That’s on us. It’s up to us. It’s not a ‘one person job’. It’s a collective humanitarian effort.
It went like that sometimes, laying there in the dark, a soft thud from another room. A room you know is empty. The thud so soft but so distinct you can only guess it’s gravity pulling on clothes. But what clothes? You didn’t leave any clothes in there to fall. So what was that noise? The world is otherwise quiet, and your mind is noisy, playing back music to you from sometime in the day, or from sometime in your life, thoughts about what you’ll do when your alarm goes off. Will it be different when you wake up? Another thud, just a little louder, but this time against the wall. What falls on the wall? That doesn’t make sense. Heart beating faster now, body otherwise warm and cozy under the covers, you debate with yourself about getting up. A tentative sounding bump on the ceiling. Your eyes are drawn in that direction, but it’s pitch black. Nothing to see here. Just noises. Does the house settle in ways you don’t even understand? Do the laws of physics even apply here? It’s not windy outside…so…There, did you hear that? Another sound outside your bedroom door. Like a shuffle. Now you know you need to get up, and also your bladder is full, and this isn’t as funny anymore. You sneak your arm and hand out of the covers, turn on the light, and get out of bed, your heart hammering, your mouth and tongue dry, and open your bedroom door. You turn on the hall light, walk down and into the darkened living room. Nothing. No clothes fell. There’s nothing there to make these noises you know you heard. Sighing, you use the restroom, and then make your way back to bed.
Next morning you open your phone and read a report about a thief who was shot dead three streets down from you. It happened about an hour before you would have got home that night to go to bed. You look around your apartment. Nothing is out of place except…that Christmas nutcracker on your coffee table has fallen on its side. It was not like that before you went to bed. You begin to see other things moved as well.
You chalk it up to absent mindedness on your part and go about your day. You leave everything as it is right now, intentionally. You even take a picture of your living room. Then consciously lock the door before leaving for work.
You get home, walk in, and see the nutcracker is on the floor in front of the computer. Your heart stops. What else has moved? Your bedspread is pulled all the way off and laying on the floor. While you’re wondering how this happened you hear something in the living room. You race out to see what it is but no one is there. You feel something, a shiver move through you, caressing your spine briefly. Suddenly you don’t feel so good. It’s time to go out for a while, maybe to a Starbucks to put all of this out of your mind.
You go and have a cup of hot chocolate. The people at the Starbucks seem to be enjoying themselves. You know you’ll go home and this will all be just some bizarre paranoia of your mind and nothing will have happened. Not again. No one could get in your apartment just to move a Christmas nutcracker and pull the sheets off your bed. You dig out your phone and read more about that story, a much more thorough read.
By the end of the news report you’re shaking. It’s your cousin who was shot and killed because he was trying to steal something from one of your friends who lives on that street. You have some guesses about what was to be stolen. What disturbs you most is that your cousin had a falling out with you a few years ago.
You get back home, opening your door wearily and step in. The nutcracker is is righted. You go into your bedroom, the bedclothes are fine. Breathing a sigh of relief, and chalking it up to your over active imagination (you shouldn’t have watched that silly horror movie two nights ago!) you go and sit at your computer.
The screen shows a Word document open. On the Word document it shows a name.
Your recently deceased cousin’s name.
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Davis was watching TV in the den, the Flinstones were on and he loved the Flinstones. Often his mom would make him a steak he could enjoy while he watched it. Today his parents were busy, like most every day. Only today wasn’t exactly like every other day because a new kid came in and introduced himself to Davis. The kid wasn’t someone he’d ever seen before. Davis’s parents had a home practice, which meant clients and patients came to see Davis’s father for health work stuff. That’s how Davis thought of it. Davis figured this poor kid got dragged in with his parents and then sent out to play with Davis while he waited for his mom or dad. Made sense.
Tommy sat in the rocking chair Davis’s mom always sat in but Davis could hear his mom scolding the new kid saying he wasn’t sitting, he was slouching. Once the show was over and the commercials came back on, Davis turned to look at the new kid and see what was going on and what he wanted to do.
Tommy straightened up and looked at Davis, pale freckled cheeks, blonde hair, blue eyes, and an absent quality that Davis couldn’t articulate to himself, but that he could certainly feel.
“I think we should go play upstairs. Have any good beds in this house?”
Davis thought about this a moment cocking his head to the side and sticking his thumb in his mouth, then it came to him and he grinned and nodded.
“My mom’s bed is the bestest bed in the whole wide world!”
Tommy grinned and stood, signaling that that was the best news he’d ever heard.
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The two of them climbed onto Davis’s mother and father’s bed and began to jump on it like all little kids do. At some point, Tommy put out his hands and Davis took them in his. Tommy’s hands were rough and strong, almost splintered. Again there was that absent or vacant feeling that Davis felt deep inside his gut but that he didn’t understand.
The world looked like it was bouncing up and down while him and Tommy stayed still and that made Davis laugh. After a few moments of wild laughter, Tommy joined him and the two of them were laughing together, then Tommy made goggly eyes at Davis and that got them both laughing even harder.
At some point, as all kids do, Davis decided to try some new moves on the bed. When he launched into the air on one of his jumps, he twisted his body around and came down looking the other direction. He let out an exultant cry then did it again. Then Tommy began doing the same thing. Each time, Davis thought of a new idea and tried it out and then Tommy would copy him. They were still both laughing when Davis made one last move and miscalculated where he would land. His right foot came down on the wooden frame beneath the mattress near the edge and it sent him tumbling forward, his chin catching his father’s nightstand on the corner and gashing open with searing pain and blood dripping in fresh patters all over the cream colored carpet. Davis rolled over onto his back, dazed and the world blurring through unbidden tears.
Then the pain exploded in his awareness.
Davis howled so loudly the window pane by the bed trembled ever so slightly.
Finally his mother came rushing into the room and scooped him up with practiced arms.
“Shhh, oh my God, honey, what happened?”
Davis could only continue to yell and cry. His mother, Janelle, took him into the bathroom and tried to staunch the bleeding with cotton swabs and then treated it with rubbing alcohol which invoked fresh anger and mistrust and outraged crying from Davis.
She bandaged his chin as best she could and waited on him hand and foot until he calmed down. It wasn’t until evening when Davis asked where Tommy went and what happened to him. This question arose with apparent reluctance and unhappiness. His parents exchanged a look and Janelle shrugged her shoulders to indicate she had no idea what Davis was asking.
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That evening was spent watching television after dishes were washed and put away and Davis’s father, Stanley, had finished wrapping up last minute business details with his patients and could join them in the den. The same den where earlier that day, Davis insisted Tommy had showed up.
“I’m sorry honey, but there was no little boy by the name of Tommy who visited with his parents. And your daddy just confirmed with his patient calendar that no one came in with a child. None of us saw one here the whole day.”
“But mah-ahm! He was there! I swear it!”
“Sweetie, I just don’t know what to say. I guess you made him up because you were really bored?”
“NO!” Davis’s eyes widened at the thought that you could make up an imaginary friend as real as Tommy had clearly been. It just didn’t make sense. How could his parents not have seen the kid?
The evening wore on in similar fashion until Davis fell asleep.
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“Hey Mom, Dad, do you guys remember when I busted my chin?”
They were driving to go see a movie about a lawyer who took a deal with the devil and it looked really good from the preview.
“I remember,” Janelle said.
“Can’t say as I recall,” Stanley said.
“There was a kid that day. He and I were jumping up and down on the bed. Whatever happened to him?”
His parents exchanged a glance at each other.
Janelle turned in her seat and looked at her son, Davis who was now 17, with as much compassion as she could find and said, “There wasn’t a little boy playing with you, sweetie. You must have imagined him.”
“Oh,” Davis said. He didn’t imagine Tommy, and either his parents were blind or weren’t paying attention to who came and went from their house, or he had played with a ghost. Or you had one hell of a hallucination. To that last thought he quietly doubted it very much.
Such a teen, his mom thought. “Why do you ask?”
“Oh, I don’t know, we’re going to see this movie and something about it jogged my memory.”
“Well, memory is a funny thing. That was a long time ago and who knows what you’ve told yourself over and over about it since then,” Stanley said, ever the doctor, rarely the father.
Davis nodded his head, “Yeah, I know. Anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing this movie, aren’t you guys?”
Janelle shifted slowly back to a front facing position in the passenger seat and said she was looking forward to it and how she always liked Al Pacino in almost anything. Except for Scarface, she wouldn’t watch that if you paid her.
Davis thought to himself quietly as his father guided the car along toward their destination: child, or children, was it me and him or just me and myself?
Child or children? Child or children? Child or children?
They’re in the apartment together, she’s folding clothes on the bed, he’s watching her, his arms crossed over his chest. Her long hair spills over her face with every bend, fold, and tuck. Now she looks up at him, her eyes glistening.
“We’re done right?”
She looks away, then looks at the laundry, neatly folded on their bed, which is too low because it has no frame to support it. They may as well be sleeping on the ground.
“I think we’re through, you and I,” she says.
He can’t muster a coherent reply, so he groans. The groan is so loud he hears it somewhere else, somewhere outside of himself.
She watches him, her dark hair now pulled back in a ponytail. When had she done that? How long has he been groaning?
“It’s going to rain, I think. It’s going to rain, right?” She leaves him in the room before he can answer and he turns toward the door, the overhead light is bright but also dark, so dark. He picks up his phone. He’s tried to forget what she just said about being done, over with, no longer a couple, married or otherwise, how unfathomable that sentiment even is!
He begins to look at his phone when the whole room, the whole house starts to shake and cough and make him lose balance. He falls on his butt, the world and the house trembling. He now knows there’s a cyclone or a hurricane and a tornado all outside his house, their tiny apartment at the same time.
His groan is increasing, he can’t see what’s on his phone, the whole world is getting shaky, it’s rumbling, and he has a sad revelation that they’ll die together in this mess before he can say how much he loves her, regardless if she thinks they’re done or not.
The quaking intensifies so much that everything goes dark.
Lyle rolls over in his bed, next to his wife whom he knows wouldn’t leave him for anyone, nor he for anyone else. The world is still, silent, blessedly dark.
A bad dream. His groaning was like a cry in the dark.
He’ll analyze this dream later.