Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Illusionist

This is the second blog I've done recently touching upon the lengths to which the mind will go to avoid the unpleasantness of reality, but I think it is sufficiently interesting to warrant two posts, and hope you agree.
I'm always intrigued by a really good magician. How can they possibly do what they appear to do? I recently saw Chris Angel, I think it was, drop a playing card into a fish tank, then reach in to retrieve it...from the side of the tank, through the glass! I know there had to be some trick to it; that it went against all the laws of physics. But he did it. He somehow convinced those watching that it was real.

I take pride in being something of an illusionist myself, though the tricks I perform are done for an audience of one: me. But on that level I am, if I may say so, on a par with the very best of them. I can firmly and utterly convince myself that what I want to believe is real. And just as David Copperfield can walk through the Great Wall of China and others make elephants and tigers disappear at will, I can make what I want to disappear...well, disappear.

To say that I do not like the fact that I am growing old is an understatement of epic proportions. Therefore, I am not growing old, no matter what all the mirrors and store windows and other reflective surfaces may tell me. And while I should be ashamed of myself for saying so, I simply do not relate to anyone my own age....or 20 years younger. (My friends who are "of a certain age" are, of course, the exception. But I am much younger than they...or you, for that matter...despite what our birth certificates might say.)

There are certain downsides to being an illusionist with an audience of one. For one thing, I find myself as uncomfortable among those euphemistically called "seniors" as I am among most heterosexuals. (It doesn't take much figuring to see that I'm fairly well outnumbered on all counts.) I live in a subsidized senior citizens complex (only, I tell myself, because I could not afford a regular apartment elsewhere), but I have absolutely nothing...nothing! common with the others who live here. Some of them are very nice people, rather like my grandparents' friends. But when I look at them, they are all old, and I simply will not allow myself to consider that when they look at me, they see someone no different from themselves.

Please understand, for all my apparent obsession on aging, I'm not really unhappy. Do I wish with all my heart that I were much younger? Of course. Do I wish many things about me and my life were different? Again, of course I do. But they are not, and the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments does little but leave one naked and in need of a dentist. I do enjoy life. Just not the way I would really like to. So I fill the gap between what I wish was and what is with harmless self-delusions, rather like filling in the chinks in an old log cabin with newspapers and rags to keep out the winter's chill.

So I walk down the street and I see so very many beautiful young men, some singly, some in groups, some in obviously-in-love pairs, and they are laughing and full of the joy of, well, being young. And I, in my mind and heart and soul, am truly one of them. But I cannot, dare not, extend this illusion to the point where I think they might possibly accept me as one of them. I do ache for their youth and beauty, but I am not like the pathetic character in Thomas Mann's "Death in Venice," who tries to make himself into something he was not. I do know my limitations. I am pummeled by them, but not shattered or destroyed.

What, then, is the point of all this self delusion? Do I really think I am not growing older by the day? Of course not. Do I really think I can triumph over reality? Of course not. Then if not, why in the world do I do it?
I do it first and foremost because there is no real harm in it, for myself or for others. I consider my gentle delusions as something like a thick quilt on a cold winter's night, comforting and warm. We each have the right to take our comfort where and how we can find it. I would far rather have my illusions to keep me warm than to shiver in the increasingly cold wind of reality coming through the chinks in the wall.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is also available as an audiobook (


Kage Alan said...

I don't know if it's because I've met you a couple of times AND interacted with you online and through e-mail, but it's never even occurred to me to relate the word "senior" with you.

I've been around people who reach a certain age and then purposely act like it because they feel they should. You are the exact opposite. You have your limitations, only you're always attempting to exceed those limitations or find new ways to continue while moving around them.

The fire that burns inside you, D, shows brightly.

Mirela S. said...

Dorien/Roger... dear friend... allow me to be in your team. I am also an illusionist and for sure I am always feeling like 16.