Sunday, November 18, 2012

Book Review: Illusions: The Adventures of A Reluctant Messiah

Powell's Books/Barnes & Noble
Richard Bach - © 1977

Richard is a barnstormer pilot of a Fleet airplane who flies out of the cornfields of the American Midwest selling ten minute rides for three dollars. His is a free existence, sleeping under the stars with a belly full of pan bread that only he can love. His unburdened mind flies with the idea that reality isn't. That men could fly if they could only forget that it was impossible. One sunny day he lands his Fleet next to a better-than-mint Travel Air 4000 and finds the teacher for whom he has been searching.

Richard rediscovers a bond of friendship with Don Shimoda that extends beyond this life. Don teaches Richard what he has yet to remember; that he can walk on water and swim through dirt; that this life is a story of our own creation from which we are meant to simply learn and enjoy.

This book tears down the fabric of reality and alters perceptions, yet it is light, entertaining and engrossing. It is a story as unlikely as an auto mechanic turned messiah, turned barnstormer from the holy lands of Indiana; a glass of spring water in a literary world polluted with the lead and chlorine of writing for the mass market.

The Impact:
Illusions is a mere 93 pages. Never before have I read 93 pages that have had so much to say or affected me so deeply. The full plot can be outlined in a handful of sentences yet there are enough original ideas to keep my mind busy for years, maybe for the rest of my life.

It has altered my perception of life. Sometimes I feel that I'm not be doing what I want to do, but I am, because I am doing it. Whatever “it” is, is a result of hundreds of conscious decisions I make every day. If I didn’t want to be doing it, I would be doing something else. Somehow I feel less trapped by my days of mommy-hood and realize that this stay-at-home life is what I really want; I am free to choose and I am choosing each day to be my kids’ caregiver. Realizing that I am the only one that has control over my life is liberating. For example, I don’t have to feed my kids, but I want to, because I want them to be healthy and happy. This fantastically simple idea changes my view of making dinner from a chore imposed on me by my family to a choice I make. (Don’t worry, I don’t see myself choosing not to feed my family one day.) It is a simple, yet a mind boggling perception shift.

This book is filled with the simplest of ideas that have never once occurred to me. It must be how 17th century scientists felt upon reading Newton’s laws of motion. “Of course! Why didn’t I think of that? It is so simple.”

Favorite Quotes:
Don, regarding quitting the messiah gig:
“A good messiah hates nothing and is free to walk any path he wants to walk. Well, that’s true for everybody, of course. We’re all the sons of God, or children of the Is, or ideas of the Mind, or however else you want to say it.”

Messiah’s Handbook quotes:
“Learning is finding out what you already know.”
“Doing is demonstrating that you know it.”
“Teaching is reminding others that they know just as well as you.”
“You are all learners, doers, teachers.
“You teach best what you most need to learn.”

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