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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Grand Illusion

I was slow getting around to dinner last night but eventually I heated up something in the microwave. Then I clicked on the tube to watch something while I ate. With a couple of clicks, I stumbled upon the 1956 movie Forbidden Planet starring Leslie Nielson. Great movie! I think it was Nielson’s second film. It was cutting edge for its day and still is quite entertaining (Although I keep half expecting Lt. Frank Drebin to inadvertently lean on a ray gun and blow up the planet or something.)

An evil invisible monster from Id is confronted in the movie. We only get a good look at him when he is caught in some kind of electrical current. The special effects are almost hokey by today’s standards. Certainly not Star Wars or Lord of the Rings caliber. Still, I’ll bet they were “swell” in their day.

What I remember as a kid were the IMAX adventures. I still go to see them today. Sitting in front of that enormous screen, you are right their in the cockpit of the fighter plane, or in the drivers seat of the race car, or flying the spaceship to the moon. If you pull your eyes away from the picture long enough and look at others in the audience, you can see people lean hard one direction to get the right body English as the car rounds the turn, or push back in their seats as the rocket thrusts into space. The illusion is so big that it is overpowering. It is hard to watch and not enter in to it.

But there is one thing I have noticed about IMAX productions. I have never seen one advertised about lawn mowing, or sitting in rush our traffic, or doing laundry. It makes sense of course. We do that stuff everyday. Why would we want to go watch an illusion of that happening? We want illusions that touch our passions and dreams. Illusions that intoxicate. Illusions that remove us from our present reality and deliver us to some magical place.

So it occurs to me, that apart from the good technical effects, an illusion most have at least two qualities. It must be big, …really big, …in your face can’t look away big. And the illusion must touch some core desire so deeply that we will delude ourselves from looking at the authentic.

The serpent in the Garden apparently understood this. He painted a grand illusion. God is a selfish ogre who begrudges you your rightful place as a god, “knowing good and evil.” Just think. We could become like gods. And a delusion is born, fueled by the intoxicating idea of autonomy and power. It is the Satanic delusion.

Illusion calls us to delusion. Delusion requires illusions that reinforce our absurdities as authentic. We become pathetic fools. As Dick Keyes has noted, the great irony is that in seeking to become God we have become less than human. This is our present existence. Life under a grand illusion.


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