When This Is, That Is

Exploring the world of conditionality

Perception, Projection, and the Trap of Illusion

A marionette is a kind of puppet whose articulated parts are manipulated by someone pulling on strings or wires from above. Evidently, marionettes have been in use for four thousand years, give or take. Historically, their  function went beyond mere entertainment. They were used to teach lessons in morality to illiterate masses, shame errant children of nobles, and convey messages to kings in a way that saved the messengers from possible execution. Puppets could get away with saying and doing things in public that would have been taboo for real people.

Predicating all of these uses is our ability to suspend disbelief so we can think of the marionette as real while knowing it is not.

As I watched the video of the dancing skeleton, it was easy for me to see it as a person—not as a collection of plastic bones held together by bits of string or wire and manipulated by a real person. I projected on it a lecherous personality. It was the clacking of the teeth—presumably at an attractive woman—that did it. But then, toward the end, as he (it!) gets down on his knees to check the take and sees how sparse it is, he sobs despairingly. Aw, he can’t be all bad. A passer-by thinks so too, and drops in some cash.

It’s obviously an illusion, yet it evoked sympathy. 


But isn’t this the way with people to? I mean we form opinions about people based on our perceptions—all of the data that come through our senses—and create a story so convincing it becomes true. 

But it isn’t true. Any two people will see another person differently—and most certainly differently from how that person sees himself. There will be as many views, and  opinions, of that one person as there are people doing the viewing. No single view—not even one’s own self-view—can be considered the “right” one. My story about me isn’t “true” because it’s impossible for me to view myself as others see me.

Even with this knowledge, our stories about ourselves and others are so convincing they become real and true. Yet they aren’t true, not in a universal sense, anyway. The stories we tell ourselves are illusions.

It seems to me a trap.

3 Responses to Perception, Projection, and the Trap of Illusion

  1. Paul Gerhards says:

    Wise Fool, perhaps having a “consensus view” of myself is equivalent to being comfortable with appearing multi-faceted. That is, accepting that I don’t always appear to others as I’d like to imagine.

    Sabio, glad to have contributed to your kids’ entertainment.

  2. Excellent post, Paul. It is all too easy to fall into that trap. Furthermore, it can be intensely frustrating when someone gets stuck with an untrue perspective of me. But then, is that just my perception that they have it all wrong, or is really all wrong?

    In some sense, I guess we have to learn to develop a consensus view of ourselves for the mos accurate picture.

  3. Sabio Lantz says:

    My story about me isn’t ”true” because it’s impossible for me to view myself as others see me.

    How true !! Fun video — my kids loved it.

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