I'm a firm believer in the concept of creative visualization. The idea is beautifully described in the Richard Bach book, "Illusions, The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah." In the book Mr. Bach puts forth a proposition that echoes the sentiments of every romantic philosopher who's ever taken breath; this is the best of all possible worlds and we have some say over our own reality.

If you are willing to suspend disbelief for the few hours it takes to absorb the charming allegory you might just be swayed.

The story was published in the post hippie 70's, as America struggled with its ideological hangover. The summer of love was gone forever and cultural apocalypse seemed imminent. Everybody was Kung Fu fighting instead of Imagining and Woodstock became Kent State in the time it takes to grow a decent patch of marijuana.

During the darkest days of disco Mr. Bach revived a few million latent idealists with his optimistic little book.


My older brother picked up "Illusions" at a bookstore downtown, to pass the time while he waited for his bus. The story was so compelling that he missed three buses in a row as he stood reading in the aisle of the bookstore. He missed the fourth and final bus standing in line to pay for the book he'd already read.

The basic premise of the tale is the same as Plato's "Allegory of the Cave," that the world of ideas is the real deal and that everything else is little more than a shadow on the wall. The book is interspersed with snippets from the messiah's handbook but it might just as well be Socrates speaking.

        "Imagine the universe beautiful and just
        and perfect.

             Then be sure of one thing:

        The Is has imagined it quite a bit better
        than you have."

Or conversely,

        "Argue for your limitations and sure enough
        they're yours."

I was about thirteen years old when I read the book and I couldn't wait to tell my English teacher about it. He encouraged the class to read more fiction and this was a tantalizing fiction indeed; that every man might be his own messiah. I thought he'd appreciate the story's Platonic pedigree, if nothing else.

Not only was the teacher unimpressed with my choice of fiction, he held me up to ridicule in front of the entire class.

"If young Mr. Shute wants to waste his time and energy on Pop Philosophy that's his prerogative but I expect better of the rest of you."

I was dumbstruck. How could that sweet little book inspire such venom, in a teacher of all people? His derision was so intense I feared it would climax in a book burning. At first I wondered if he had even read the thing but his tirade continued and removed any doubt.

"That's secular humanism young man and it might just as well have been written in the Devil's own hand."

He was spindling the paperback book and pacing back and forth, red faced, inappropriately hostile.

"Moby Dick” is literature; your little fantasy book is trash, nothing more. It was composed by an imbecile for the amusement of other imbeciles."

I was not well read in the seventh grade so I had to take the man at his word about Moby Dick. I wouldn't find out until years later that Herman Melville was a tedious blowhard and that Moby Dick was his tour de force. Taste, in a matter as arbitrary as fiction, is bound to be subjective. In my humble opinion, if you can wrassle your way through Moby Dick in less than a week, without losing the will to live, I don't want you at my cocktail parties.

Mr. Turner's fanatic spectacle mellowed to a patronizing taunt.

"Perhaps our young philosopher is similarly edified by the comic strips in the Sunday newspaper."

The class tittered and for a moment I felt very small. I remembered a passage in "Illusions" that was devilishly appropriate to his belittling remark so I stood from my desk and paraphrased Mr. Bach, as he had paraphrased Plato.

"I'll take the truth wherever I can get it, thank you!"

His condescension may have earned a wave of giggles but mine got a round of applause and a ticket out of his class for the rest of the period.

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