October 22, 2010

Patience in a World of Illusion

Progress doesn’t always come in neat, straight lines. It can be messy and look like a mistake when you come across it, but it doesn’t have to be criticized just because it hasn’t yet come together in a way that makes sense on the surface.


This is one of the threads that runs through the book Walking Through Illusion by Betsy Otter Thompson. This book imagines Jesus almost in the role of a self-improvement coach telling the life stories of the people around him. In every story, there is always something out of place or happening out of sequence. It seems easy to point to where the problem is — indeed, they are all familiar, everyday problems on the surface — but in each case, Walking Through Illusion suggests a gentler, less stressful way of looking at it.

Imagine, for example, a person who claims to know all about something and talks about it at length, but turns out to have no actual personal experience in the subject. A phony expert, you might say. Your view of the situation may be even more harsh if you are the person behaving this way, and constantly afraid of being found out. Yet, it could just be a case of rhetoric preceding reality. People are drawn to a subject or specialty because their heart calls them to it, but at the same time, fear may hold them back. This is part of the story of Mark in Walking Through Illusion. For years, he had talked about the importance of horsemanship, and he spoke so convincingly about it no one realized he had never ridden even a mule.

Then he was a preacher without any mastery. To become a master, he had to stop talking as if he were an expert and get on a horse to become one. After he’d conquered this challenge, he thought he’d lived a miracle since judgment about it had tyrannized him for years.

The mastering technique was the same regardless of the mastery and involved the following principle: if you think up an idea, it exists. If you live an idea, it’s yours.

We usually talk about “seeing through” an illusion, but there is more to be learned by seeing the illusions of life from the inside, as part of the action of life. Doing so takes patience, of course, but this same patience is the key to unraveling the painful situations we find ourselves in. This is a process illustrated in one story after another in Walking Through Illusion.

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