BOOK REVIEW: “Illusions” by Richard Bach

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“What does it matter if something is old? Charles Dickens said any book you haven’t read is a new book. What does it matter whether it’s old?… I don’t understand what this lemming-like dementia is about constantly having new stuff. When was the last time you read the totality of Steinbeck or Faulkner or Katherine Anne Porter or Shirley Jackson? Everybody always wants something new, new, new – and that’s what’s killing life for writers. This dementia for ‘new’ is ridiculous. It turns everybody into a back number… We’re dealing with a more and more illiterate and amnesiac constituency. It’s impossible to get a readership that will follow you, because all they know is what they knew yesterday… And so when I hear this what-are-you-doing-lately thing, or that the Edgeworks books are bringing back all of my older books, I say, ‘Yeah, they’re real old books – like five years old!’ See, I do go off on these things. And if you ask the wrong question, I get real cranky.”
- Harlan Ellison
 

Having unfortunately been duped by propaganda to believe the deranged and twisted mythologies of Abrahamic deathcults (fraught with crucifixions and bloody sacrifices to vengeful gods) were actually real, I didn’t find any path to spiritual enlightenment until I reached the age of 14 and finally began to think for myself, breaking free from the brainwashing dogmas of those hideous institutions. Thankfully, I never became a catamite to a clergyman in order to discover their sacred texts were pretty much evil incarnate, but I do lament that it took the better part of a decade to renounce their deceitful fictions. Would that I were only raised to accept J.R. “Bob” Dobbs as a beacon of salvation, at least I could have had a moneyback guarantee!

Consequently, I can sincerely say, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach is the type of book I wish I had discovered at the age of 8 instead of 20. Had I found it sooner in my life, I may have been able to abandon the egomaniacal lies expounded by Messianic theology that much more quickly. Perhaps I would have become a bit wiser a bit sooner, and I would have ceased being so clueless when I was much younger than 14 years old.

But, as the old saying goes, “You can’t second-guess fate.”

For those who are wondering, yes, I am quite deliberately speaking of these topics using such a convoluted mire of haughty terminology because I know that intelligent people will follow what I’m talking about and a majority of the zealous zombies indoctrinated by theistic idiocy will have no clue what the hell I’m saying. I grew up with a number of people, bless their souls, who couldn’t follow the vocabulary of Johnny Carson, let alone Dennis Miller.

While I may bemoan that the age of 20 was a far older age than I would have preferred to discover this book, things happen in their due time and perhaps Illusions came into my life at exactly the right moment. To quote from the introduction of Illusions:

“Perhaps it is no coincidence that you’re holding this book; perhaps there’s something about these adventures that you came here to remember. I choose to think so. And I choose to think my messiah is perched out there on some other dimension, not fiction at all, watching us both, and laughing for the fun of it happening just the way we planned it to be.”

Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach tells the story of a mechanic who befriends a barnstormer. The mechanic, named Donald Shimoda, is the eponymous messiah. The book follows their meeting and developing friendship over the course of a few days where the barnstormer gains a lot of wisdom about life and learns that Donald Shimoda isn’t the crackpot that most people would presume him to be. The story is wonderful. Full of deep insights and a kind of taoist existential view of the universe that can change your life. This is why you must find this book at the proper age for you. Too young and you won’t understand it. Too old and you may too set in your ways to consider the possibilities. But, when you’re old enough to be questioning and young enough to still be searching, Illusions will find you.

Never will I forget when and where Illusions found me for the first time.

I was already a fan of Richard Bach and I had read a number of his books. One afternoon in circa 1991, I found myself in a bookstore in downtown Cleveland and I already had a number of books in hand that I wanted to buy. However, being dirt poor, I couldn’t afford all of them. I had to be careful which ones I picked to purchase. So, I decided I would open Illusions to a random page and read what was there. If the text on that page really spoke to me, I would buy the book.

I shut my eyes and flipped it open and read the words:

“Perspective – Use It or Lose It. If you turned to this page, you’re forgetting that what is going on around you is not reality. Think about that. Remember where you came from, where you’re going, and why you created the mess you got yourself into in the first place. You’re going to die a horrible death, remember. It’s all good training, and you’ll enjoy it more if you keep the facts in mind. Take your dying with some seriousness, however. Laughing on the way to your execution is not generally understood by less advanced lifeforms, and they’ll call you crazy.”

Gasping, I slammed the book shut. Needless to say, I nearly had a heart attack. And shit myself. Seizure. Incontinence. Simultaneously.

What the fuck!?

A horrible death!? Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Hold on a second. That’s metaphorical, right? Metaphorical death? Metaphorical execution? We’re not talking literal, here. Right? I want to die peacefully in my sleep at the age of 105 after a night of having sex with my 20 year old lingerie model girlfriend. That’s how I plan to go out. Not a horrible execution. Shit, man, I was just asking if I should buy a book. I wasn’t asking for metaphysical premonitions of being executed! What the fuck is that about!?

When I said I wanted the book to speak to me, I was not expecting the thing to answer me so literally.

Needless to say, there was no way that book was going back on the shelf. This thing was coming home with me.

Ultimately, that’s what Illusions became in my life – a book that truly speaks to me. In the decades since I first discovered the book, there are still quotes and lines that have stuck with me and resonated and remain just as true and profound and relevant today as they were when I first read them. The book became the sort of story you give to girls you are dating, to test them; to see if they “get it” or not. Girl doesn’t like Illusions, she’s not going to be the right kind of girl for me. That was how important the book became. When you use a book to test people you’re sleeping with, you know it’s a damn good book. Some girls passed. Some girls failed. And sure enough, the ones who passed ended up being some of the best girls I ever dated.

Those lemmings who are still blindly following devious men preaching imaginary edicts of insane and hateful gods, will most likely not comprehend or enjoy a book like Illusions. However, those of you who know how to communicate directly with the wonderment of the universe, circumventing the antiquated mendacities of ecclesiastical catechisms, will find the story to be a profound revelation. Knowing there has been at least one other soul in the universe to see things the way you do will be enough to restore some of your dissipated faith in humanity. Something like Illusions may not help you wizened souls view any aspect of life in a new way, but rather, help you to see you are not the only savior yearning to leave your post.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that you came across this review; perhaps there’s something about this book that you came here to remember. I choose to think so. And I choose to think all the joy of the universe is watching us both, and laughing for the fun of it happening just the way we planned it to be.