Alternate Truths

Screen Shot 2020-12-08 at 11.28.48 AMIllusion: an instance of a wrong or misinterpreted perception (of a sensory experience).

Delusion: an idiosyncratic belief or impression that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality or rational argument; typically a symptom of mental disorder.
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There’s a point when a strongly held conviction, a belief system, or a defining personal style morphs into something else. When an ‘I know this much is true. . .’ moment crosses the watershed into Neverland. When one’s credo becomes abruptly more sinister, more dangerous.

What makes this ‘crossing of the Rubicon’, this passing over the threshold from ‘generally accepted reality’ to a state less firmly tethered to the real world particularly worrisome is just that — that we’ve floated away from the mothership. That we’re no longer able to conduct meaningful ‘reality checks’. The feedback loop that keeps us grounded has breeched . . . and we’re adrift. Worse, we become increasingly attached to a self-referential, alternate universe, a ‘do-loop’ with no hope of fact-based correction.

The two versions of this New Yorker cover remind us that, with ‘selective pruning’, we ‘see’ what we want or are intended to see: the elegant, cocktail-sipping gal that has become the image of a Covid-times poster child. Pull back for for full frame and the rest of the story, the ‘truth’ reveals. Illusion of grace and style is supplanted by unshaven legs, days or weeks of detritus, device distractions, sweats over suits, the cavalier dereliction that displaces discipline. Illusion.

As state after state has certified and re-certified vote counts, suit upon suit has been tossed aside by the judiciary, ‘witnesses’ undone not by crafty examination but by their own ‘weirdness’, and November 3 recedes into the mists with January 20 looming on the horizon, the ‘version of reality’ that has held sway for a truly disturbing number of folks for the last four years has shifted from illusion to delusion.

An election has been won. . . and an election has been lost. I’m reminded of Arthur’s duel with ‘the Black Knight’ in Monty Python’s Holy Grail. As Arthur progressively dismembers his ‘worthy adversary’, BK sinks deeper and deeper into denial. Losing an arm (’Tis but a scratch’), a second arm (BK crows ‘Oh, had enough, eh?’) and confronted with the reality of his armless state (‘just a flesh wound’). Legless (BK’s defiant retort ‘I’ll do you for that’). Progressively, ‘I’m invincible’, ‘the BK always Trumps hurt’ — and ultimately ‘we’ll call it a draw’.

Funny in film, sympathetic in an individual’s psychotic process, tragic and terrifying in a nation’s morality play where near half of the population and an equal proportion of elected officials continue to support and endorse the deluded claim that ‘I won’ — and ‘none shall pass’.

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