Reality ‘noun’ – the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them.
Illusion – an idea or belief that is not true, or something that is not what it seems to be.
The supposed idea or rather theory of what reality is can be interpreted in a variety of angles. Firstly, what we perceive to be reality should automatically come into question when studying the present subject matter. Secondly what we understand or rather overstand to be reality should certainly be down to the individual in question. This essay challenges the idea and current notion of what reality is, but also decoding the illusory perceptions that are given. I challenge this simply on the basis of what we understand to be control.
We must first understand fully what we like to grasp as control of our actions are simply guided by what we understand to be real. For clarification purposes, I will base this thesis on the universal principality of Cause and Effect. With this natural law, we understand that the control of our lives can be based on what we understand to be reality – being what we were taught as at a young age and through our experiences. However, before we enter into the realm of the illusion that has been put in front the people we have to overstand what has turned the modern man and woman into mindless drones – Automatons namely.
As everyone’s actions are governed by their own self-interest, we are all locked in our own narcissistic 'castle'. We then inevitably assume that when we communicate with others, they see and understand our perspective exactly the way we see it without realising we are just enforcing our emotions onto them. A misconception that we may have, would be the natural tendency to conformity. This is rooted over a variety of factors; a need to make friends out of a fear of being left out and not fitting in, listening, believing and inevitably taking part in gossip told by others, and/or doing certain activities that your peer group like to do. All of which give us a feeling of emptiness, coming from a common insecurity that is present in a weak ego.
It of course feels safe to do the same things as other people, because if everyone in your peer group is doing it then surely it must work for you. I would sadly like to call this as being an Automaton. This requires you to look at the world with a somewhat mechanical eye; you feel it is too dangerous being a Maverick to some degree, because you know you’ll more than likely be ridiculed for approaching your life more differently than others and that if you are going to reach a certain echelon of success, it’ll come through sheer coincidence while languidly waiting for what life brings to the table.
The material realm of the planet underhandedly pushes us up to constantly seek for security, and we see the unfortunate consequences of not embracing the risks, i.e. not seeking that well paid job or conservatively becoming miserly with our ideals. When we eventually meet someone who seems a little bit unconventional, we are quick to judge that person as weird, out of touch - even arrogant to an extent.
A way to combat this natural tendency to seek and gain approval from others is to have a brutal and honest look into ourselves. A method to achieving this is seeing yourself through the eyes as someone else, essentially detaching yourself from your knowledge and past.
As poetic and clichéd as it may sound, ALL human beings are essentially unique. Our successes, failures and essentially our general experiences are unique to us individually. What is it about you that separate you from other people? Which activities were you naturally attracted to as a child before you were initiated into the conformist realm that we are in today?
When we begin to search on the answers to the questions above, we begin to embark on a journey of solving our own personal riddle. We can then initiate battle with the slavish, banal tendencies that society foists upon us and set ourselves up for our ultimate freedom through self-creation.
What we like to define as real are only perceptions that have been created by our immediate environment, based on the agreements that have already been made with the individual, the food and media consumed, the people we like to associate with and our daily actions and motivations. If these factors are however perverted and co-opted, by members of a dominant society, then a composite reality has been created. The individual’s everyday choices are therefore not their own, the agreements made are based on someone else’s reality – thus putting the individual in a somewhat child-like position.
Overall, we can liken the actions of being an Automaton to a social conformist. At present, we can now ascertain that the modern day conformist is not one who is in control of his or her own reality.
The Corleone Effect
As children, we pickup activities and mannerisms from our parents and carers. We start out with an exceeding amount of exuberance; expect nearly the best out of everything in the world. As we get older however, the failures and setbacks we endure tend to hold us back in later pursuits in our lives. This is sometimes perpetuated by the problems we inherit from our immediate environment, as well as the words and doctrines adhered from our society.
I make this section of the essay ‘The Corleone Effect’ on the basis of the The Godfather trilogy’s main protagonist, Michael Corleone. What I believe makes the trilogy one of the most significant in modern storytelling, is the story’s primary thematic theme of family, love and loyalty. One can of course argue that it can also be about the Corleone mafia family’s crime syndicate and Michael’s battle to make them all legitimate. Like all respected mediums of art, this is of course up for interpretation, but most communities agree that the tale of Michael Corleone is that of a tragic hero. Despite his initial reluctance in joining the family’s criminal activities, the extenuating circumstance of his father Vito’s assassination attempt, forces Michael to take everything in his own hands. This then sadly leaves him to become the very thing he swore he wouldn’t become. Despite his cunning and ruthless behaviour in the running the Corleone business, taking up his father’s mantle as ‘The Don’, came at a price. Michael’s relationship with his wife Kay Adams tragically strains as well as those closest to him.
What can be learned from this epic story is the machinations of illusion obtained when put into positions of supposed power. Michael thought he was in control of his fate when he received the title of Godfather but he really inherited the position, and with that came the issues and problems that come with that illusion of power. Michael Corleone wasn’t in control of his destiny; he was living someone else’s life.
This is very much the predicament many people go through. We are led to believe that mainstream society has our interests at heart and if we follow this path or that, everything will work out on its own.
Sadly, its when we are faced with tough decisions to make, we’re suddenly caught in a crossroads in a sense – ‘if only I had followed my initial inclinations’. This is the tragedy we face, we all suffer like Michael did at the end of The Godfather story – leaving the material/physical world in deep regret and pain of living an illusion all our lives. However, what if we were aware of the hidden symbols and messages that are thrown in front of us?
What should also be taken to consideration should be the method decoding the imagery and symbols that we are exposed to daily. This would heartily contribute to what we allow to enter into consciousness, thus pertaining to the importance of social awareness, and ridding ourselves of the ignorance that continues to plague our society. The process of decoding these symbols (similar to the interpretation of The Godfather tale) and ideals that are confronted to the public, is however an unpopular thing to do; for the truth has consistently proven to be an unpleasant place to explore.
Judging by the simple, logical use of cause and effect; to be able to redefine our reality, we must be able to define it. This would involve the upmost prudence in not taking all the mediums that are given at face value, thus proving to the seeker that essentially our minds, have already been colonized thus keeping us all in an artificial lockdown.
Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby 'The Great Gatsby' 2013
Other than Michael Corleone, the ‘Tragic Hero’ archetype can also be applied to The Great Gatsby’s title character, Jay Gatsby. Jay Gatsby himself, although not inheriting wealth and power like a Michael Corleone, viewed himself as a somewhat ‘self-made’ entrepreneur - throwing lavish parties in his mansion every week, inviting socialites, politicians and entertainers. However, later on in the novel, we learn that as a young man, he had despised the idea of poverty and had an underlying obsession of attaining wealth, mostly for the love and acceptance of Daisy Buchanan, who herself came from a wealthy background.
What makes The Great Gatsby such useful material for this thesis is on the various amount of layers that can be construed from the story. Jay Gatsby can be seen as a hopeless romantic, successful entrepreneur or even a manipulative gangster, but what can be transmuted from the story is the rags to riches story that is presented to the reader later on in the story.
Since Gatsby believed wholeheartedly in his dream to acquire wealth and status, this eventually became a reality to him, however it should be prudently noted that it was of course nothing more than an illusion, as it is shown in the book’s tragic ending. What can be evidently learned however, is that when we can summon the courage to ask questions and commence to deconstruct the structures of our apparent reality, we can learn to create our own reality based on our beliefs and take control of our fate.
From what has been researched, I’ve found that what we would like to call 'reality' and what is reality can be finite. This is all down to the perception of the individual, but as mentioned earlier, the sights, sounds and even the names of object and symbols that were force-fed to us from childhood must be questioned. From this, a whole new paradigm of consciousness can be created – giving the individual the power to produce a new reality. This can also be achieved via self-awareness of the individuals purpose and critically tear apart the media that is absorbed daily, as demonstrated above.
Due to our perpetual ignorance, we are essentially locked down. We have successfully surrendered our critical thinking ability to accept something based on what somewhat else has designed for us. Modern day society is not based on first hand experiences – they are essentially vicarious. We absorb media to watch other people enjoy their first hand experiences, therefore it is the second hand experience that that stagnates our bodies to develop our consciousness to reawaken. Our souls will thus fail to express interface organically to search itself. Awareness of ones purpose automatically sets the undertone of the daily choices, thus avoiding the common societal tragedy of becoming an automaton and the inevitable pitfall of The Corleone effect.