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The Pros and Cons of Having Illusions

The word "illusion" is variously defined as  being  a false or mistaken impression of reality or a visionary ideal in conflict with reality, and to be "disillusioned" is apparently a state of mind in which one is more in touch with actual reality because he has lost his idealism.

Thus, having illusions is, as the saying goes, a two-edged sword:  one edge is positive because having ideals is generally viewed as good in our culture but the other edge is that such idealism often doesn't "square" with what reality actually is. Similarly, being disillusioned has its up and down sides as well: a disillusioned person does not present a mental image to us as a very "happy camper" because he has lost his idealism; yet he now has the advantage of being more in touch with reality. 

Thus both states of mind, illusion and disillusion, have their pros and cons. It all boils down to a common reality we face in numerous situations in life, namely, "you can't have your cake and eat it too".  The fact that we have a folk saying to sum up our predicament confirms its  widespread existence or occurrence in our daily experience.

Let's apply these ambivalent attitudes to a specific well-known case in Western literature, namely Voltaire's picaresque tale Candide.  Its main character of the same name starts out in life quite innocent, meaning that he has many illusions or false impressions of reality. The foremost guiding principle ["This is the best of all possible worlds"] of his definitely "illusioned" teacher, Dr. Pangloss, encourages Candide to remain steadfast in his "false impressions" even after  repeated misadventures proving life to be otherwise. Clearly, in this instance, illusions are shown to have entirely bad consequences for Candide.

Though Candide has occasional doubts about the efficacy, shall we say, of Pangloss's teachings, it is not until the very end of the Voltaire's satiric romp, that Candide finally comes to his senses. The immediate catalyst for this "great awakening" is the following  wisdom from the mouth of the "good-looking" old man that Candide meets: "I never inquire what is going on at Constantinople; I am contented with sending thither the produce of my garden, which I cultivate with my own hands."

When Pangloss persists once again in finding sufficient purpose and meaning in everything to argue that all is for best, Candide, in his new "disillusioned" state of mind , says, "Excellently observed, but let us cultivate our garden."  At this point, most readers are surely cheering for and approving Candide's new-found disillusionment.  

So the question I would like to pose for comment from my fellow Red Room members is, which state of mind, illusion or disillusionment, do you have a preference for and why? Or would you argue for some of each?  For example,  Candide's sensible state of disillusionment might seem indisputably the best attitude toward life,  especially after all the setbacks he experienced while having Pangloss's illusions.  But remember, on the downside,  Candide has now apparently lost all his idealism, which surely is be to lamented as well.  Such are the pros and cons of both states of mind.

 "Make Our Garden Grow" (Richard Wilbur lyrics from  musical "Candide")

We're neither pure nor wise nor good,

We'll  do the best we know

We'll build our house and chop our wood

And make our garden grow.


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What I call prayer...

I prefer taking responsibility from consequences of such illusions that are in conflict with true ideals. In this; ‘I need to ask God for forgiveness and start anew.’ This way; I’m no longer disillusioned to remain in view of any ideals that don’t serve or hold a true purpose, or value, towards anyone or anything. Therefore; I feel secure and peaceful in this ‘new found vision’ that does no harm, but, only makes our world a better place for you and for me. I call this prayer...  


“Make Our Garden Grow" (Richard Wilbur lyrics from musical "Candide")

We're neither pure nor wise nor good,

We'll  do the best we know

We'll build our house and chop our wood

And make our garden grow."

Yes, and in 'doing' all of the above.

Thank you for your deep thought provoking post!  You certainly have a beautiful way of touching through words!





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Thoughtful and Heart-felt


Thank you for your thoughtful and  heart-felt response as well.