A friend told me something that got me thinking.
“Involvement with anything requires the creation of an illusion around that thing”
Put simply, if you get involved in anything, you will need to ascribe excess meanings to that thing which it does not possess. So, you are ultimately creating an illusion.
The word illusion has some negative connotations, but that fit in with the worldview my friend possesses. He likes to keep a constant state of disillusionment with regard to all things. Not surprisingly, this can make him seem like both an idealist and a cynic depending on whether he is advocating an idea or rejecting it.
I got to thinking about it, and it seemed true. No matter what we get involved with, be it politics, activism, work, sports or relationships, we keep adding meaning to those things. Continued unchecked, this could lead to us being blind about some unsavoury factors of the object in question, and thus, when we become cognisant of these factors, it can be a painful experience.
Think of a relationship that broke up because one party was in denial about the other party’s obsessive need for validation. Or when an activist realises that his superiors have duped him and were just looking for power. It seems better to constantly disillusion yourself to avoid any pitfalls.
However, over the last few weeks, I’ve realised that this position isn’t as tenable as it appears on the surface. For one thing, the constant disillusionment has the risk of itself becoming an obsession. Being unable to partake in any illusion, the person might be forced to withdraw from any activity that requires an amount of commitment. There is also a sense of depression and apathy in this position which seems like floating on the sea without an anchor.
I also feel that partaking in illusions is something that is unique to mankind, and something that we must experience, for better or worse. We must be able to know the joy of rushing headlong into something, risks and fears be damned. That fearless certainty and joy of dedication to an illusion is an experience that I feel is necessary.
But what about the risk of fanaticism towards the illusion?
I feel it is better to heed the words of French social theorist, Michel Foucault,
“My point is not that everything is bad, but that everything is dangerous, which is not exactly the same as bad. If everything is dangerous, then we always have something to do.”
This view seems close to or the same as the previous view, except the part where Foucault says “we always have something to do”
This makes the stand an active one by default. We must challenge every assumption we have made, consider no truth sacred, but also remember to be active, to not stop our work, whatever it may be for. If we see an activity worth doing, we must do it. The key point is that we must not let the activity go unquestioned, but questioning an activity must not mean that we refuse to participate in it altogether.
This brings me to my conclusion: We must question our assumptions and activities, but not reduce ourselves to questioning machines. Instead of apathy, we must be ready for active involvement in the world.