On my Facebook profile, my tagline is “Respect the Truth, but Fall in Love with the Illusion”. This isn’t just some interesting line I came up with. It is something I actually try to follow in my life. Not always successfully, but aiming to do better and better over time.
Truth and Illusion are the highest un-reconcilable concepts in human life. Human life can be summarized as constantly trying to straddle these two concepts.
By Truth I mean the extremely complex and confusing and many times difficult reality that the whole universe exists within. It is the laws of the universe, the laws of evolution, psychology, sociology, and so on. The true structure of the universe, which even the laws of the universe can not describe fully: multi dimensional, fractal, non-deterministic, non-discrete, fuzzy.
By Illusion I mean the dreams, aspirations, imaginations that human beings have. The abstractions that we like to create that represent either some part of reality or just something we cook up in our minds. It also includes concepts like god, religion, various philosophies, the arts, literature, and so on. All the things that give “meaning” to our lives. As you can see, they are also a critical part of being a human being.
Human life can essentially be summarized as a sometimes successful, sometimes unsuccessful, nearly constant struggle to reconcile the Truth with the Illusion. We have to deal with the Truth, because that is all your really have in the real world. You can’t really escape the Truth, even if you don’t really understand it completely. On the other hand, no human being can really escape the Illusion either. Most other animals have it easier in this aspect because their imaginations, such as they may have, aren’t that vivid and compelling to them. Even if they have something like dreams, the dreams don’t make the creatures unhappy if they don’t come true. Their dreams don’t make them do things beyond what they need to in order to survive and procreate. But human beings have vivid and compelling imaginations, and they have a tendency to really believe in them and acting on them and even fighting for them. (It is apt that a human being without any imagination or dreams is generally called a “vegetable” or even dead.)
It goes without saying that the Illusion, being unreal, can not be fully reconciled with the Truth. We make some progress in some areas, but fail in others. And we fail in areas where we had succeeded before and succeed in areas where we failed before. Human life and human history is essentially a constant struggle to reconcile the two.
So this line is really my way of reconciling the Truth with the Illusion. Other people have tried other ways of reconciling them, but none of the other ways really work. For example,
- If, instead of respecting the Truth, you fall in love with it, it will burn you. Truth is harsh, cold. It is a wonderful and amazing thing, but don’t try to get too close to it. It will hurt you. Respect it, don’t fall in love with it.
- On the other hand, if, instead of loving the Illusion, you try to respect it, it will enslave you. the Illusion is not real. You might think it has its own laws and directives, but if you try to respect them, obey them, they will enslave you over time. This is what happens to people who take abstract concepts like religion or philosophies too seriously. These, again, are beautiful concepts, and even essential for human beings to have meaningful lives, but obeying them too literally always leads to disaster because it makes you stop respecting the Truth.
Hence, the best combination is: respect the Truth, but fall in love the the Illusion.