Book - Illusions

Illusions

Inspired by the team's Project RPO, Jayson Kristen listed his fifteen Must Read novels on the subject of Virtual Reality and set out to review them one by one. Here's his thoughts on Illusions by Richard Bach...

Ok. Question time: What would you do if you met the Messiah? I’m not talking about some dude in Cuba who claims to have heard the word of God. I mean a fully fledged, water into wine, died for your sins Messiah. Would you ask him about the meaning of life or why The Universe exists? Would you ask him why God allows life to suffer or why bad things happen to good people? If not, what would you ask him? Now, more importantly, what would you do if you didn’t like his answers? This is the premise of the short novella, Illusions, by Richard Bach and is fully worth your time.

Richard Bach is long time author and airplane pilot known for writing short impactful stories such as Jonathan Livingston Seagull: A book about a seagull trying to find his life’s purpose. As lame as that sounds, his books are full of insights and are easily absorbed. One of his most famous quotes and my personal favourite:

“If you love someone, set them free. If they come back they’re yours; if they don’t they never were.”

You’ve probably seen this on an internet meme and that’s what Illusions is. A book full of quotes crafted around the central story of a lonely man, Richard, who travels the American Midwest in his biplane, giving ten minute joy rides to random farmers for three dollars a flight. When Richard happens to cross paths with a reluctant Messiah, named Don, who is also travelling the country in his own biplane, he discovers the work of a Messiah has its drawbacks. Despite Don performing miracles, no one will truly listen to what he has to say. Don learns that humans are too absorbed with themselves to fully understand his teachings. Each person plays victim to their problems and when offered truth, the Messiah comes across as offensive rather than helpful. Through the course of the story, Richard learns that happiness is not something that can be chased. Instead, loneliness, selfishness and happiness are all choices a person can make at any time. It may be difficult to accept, but what if having anything you want is as simple as imagining it and living in harmony with that desire?

Illusions is a quick read and worthy of its ink. It’s composed of tiny chapters linked by quotes from “The Messiah’s Handbook.” This handbook is given to Don to help him remember his Messianic purpose. As Don becomes less and less interested in shepherding the masses, he gives this handbook to Richard who studies it out of intrigue. Each chapter, of Illusions, offers new wisdom into what it means to find true happiness and enjoy life to the fullest.

Don comes across more like The Dude from The Big Lebowski than Jesus Christ but his teachings are similar. Though his attitude towards his Messianic duties is lackadaisical at best he seems to connect with Richard who sometimes struggles to find purpose in his words. The Subtext of the book is comical but presents real philosophical problems. Would you act differently if you knew this world was just an illusion? Would you go on a killing spree or would you become benevolent caregiver and live your life’s dreams?

Though this book isn’t about Virtual Reality per se, the Messiah makes it very clear that what we consider to be reality is not real. If there is one takeaway from Illusions it’s that each of us has a Messiah inside us and once we break down the illusions of our world we’re free to be happy and live as we please.

Some of my favourite quotes from The Messiah’s Handbook include:

“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.”

“There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands. You seek problems because you need their gifts.”

“Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they're yours.”

“In order to live free and happily, you must sacrifice boredom. It is not always an easy sacrifice.”

“Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you're alive, it isn't.”

“Don't be dismayed at good-byes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again.
And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends.”

Image - Amazon